The American Academy of Audiology (AAA) endorsed the Audiology Patient Choice Act (H.R. 5304), which would allow audiologists to practice as physicians when providing audiology services under the Medicare program.
The legislation stems from the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA)’s 18x18 initiative, which aims to change Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to accommodate H.R. 5304’s provisions by 2018.
The AAA also remains committed to advancing the Access to Hearing Healthcare Act of 2014 (H.R. 4035, S. 2046), said AAA President Erin Miller, AuD, in an email. That bill, which was introduced in February 2014 and would eliminate the need for Medicare patients to get a physician order before seeing an audiologist, was endorsed by the ADA as well, said ADA President Kim Cavitt, AuD, in an email.
“We believe that the reciprocal endorsement of our respective legislative initiatives sends a strong message to our memberships, the audiology community at large, and members of Congress that the two associations have analogous objectives,” Dr. Miller said.
The Academy of Doctors of Audiology, American Academy of Audiology, and American Speech–Language–Hearing Association (ASHA) have held two group meetings in 2014, Dr. Miller noted.
“We will continue to contribute to an open dialogue with our colleagues about working collaboratively on legislative and other issues that support and advance the profession of audiology,” she said.
ASHA has not endorsed the Audiology Patient Choice Act.
“ASHA has put its efforts toward comprehensive benefits and rehabilitation in an effort to be able to document outcome measures relative to the benefits of the patients we treat,” ASHA Chief Staff Officer of Audiology Neil DiSarno, PhD, said in August.
The Audiology Patient Choice Act, which was introduced July 31, 2014, also would allow Medicare coverage of medically necessary, covered audiology and vestibular services without a physician order, and would include vestibular rehabilitation, cerumen removal, and aural rehabilitation on that list of covered services, as long as they're provided by audiologists within their state-defined scopes of practice.
The legislation would not affect state scope of practice or provide hearing aid coverage under Medicare.
In addition to the AAA, the California, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania Academies of Audiology; the Northern Illinois University Student Academy of Audiology; Salus University; the Hearing Care Group of Metropolitan New York; the David & Carol Myers Foundation; and the National Aging in Place Council have endorsed the bill.
“The momentum has been incredible, and, of course, the more public support for the bill, the better received it will be in Congress,” Dr. Cavitt said.
Dr. Cavitt expressed hope that the Audiology Patient Choice Act ultimately will be signed into law.
“With the help of ADA members, the audiology community, and our patients and allies, I am confident that the bill will pass in due time,” she said. “It is right for the patient, right for the Medicare program, and right for audiology.”