Better Speech and Hearing Month Begins with Re-Introduction of Legislation to Help Medicare Patients Get Better Access to Audiology Services

Washington, D.C.—The Academy of Doctors of Audiology commends U.S. Representative Tom Rice (R-SC) for his leadership in introducing H.R. 2276, the Audiology Patient Choice Act. This bipartisan, common-sense legislation, if enacted, will bring Medicare in line with evidence-based practices in audiologic health care delivery models, and trends in patient care and participatory medicine.

“My goal is to create policies that give South Carolinians and all Americans access to high quality, efficient health care services under Medicare,” said Congressman Rice. “The Audiology Patient Choice Act will cut red tape and streamline policy so that Medicare patients can receive necessary care in a more convenient way.”

The Audiology Patient Choice Act will remove existing barriers to care for millions of Americans by allowing Medicare Part B patients with a suspected hearing or balance problem to go directly to the audiologist, without waiting for an order from a medical doctor. It will also allow patients to choose from among qualified providers for Medicare-covered audiologic services, and it will also help address the medical doctor workforce shortage confronting our country, while helping to meet the increasing demand for health care services by the growing Medicare population. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), hearing loss is the third‐most common chronic physical condition among adults in the United States after hypertension and arthritis, and is twice as likely as diabetes or cancer.

Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA) join Representative Rice as original co-sponsors of the Audiology Patient Choice Act.

“We thank Representatives Rice, Jenkins and Cartwright for their commitment to ensure that Medicare patients have streamlined access to safe, efficient audiologic care—and the same opportunity to choose from among all qualified providers as the rest of America enjoys,” said Jason Wigand, Au.D., President of the South Carolina Academy of Audiology. “This legislation will foster exceptional patient outcomes, and it will do so in manner that is fiscally responsible and functionally sustainable.”

As the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) outlined yesterday in written testimony before the Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, “The Audiology Patient Choice Act will modernize existing Medicare regulations that undermine access and affordability for many older Americans. Medicare Part B patients are … shuffled back and forth between providers in an inefficient process, because audiologists are only recognized under Medicare Part B as diagnosticians, despite the fact that they are licensed to provide Medicare‐covered rehabilitative services. [This bill], if enacted, will alleviate many of these barriers within the Medicare system, and allow Medicare Part B beneficiaries to have the same access to audiology care as Medicare Advantage beneficiaries and most Americans do.”

“As an audiologist and a Medicare patient, I can tell you that the need for this legislation has never been greater,” said Eric Hagberg, Au.D., Past President and Advocacy Chair of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology. “I can’t think of a more fitting way to begin Better Speech and Hearing Month then by advancing legislation that will help older Americans like me get better access to the audiology services that we need to lead healthy and happy lives. I thank Representatives Rice, Jenkins and Cartwright for their commitment to ensure that the Audiology Patient Choice Act is passed and signed into law!”

The Audiology Patient Choice Act was carefully constructed to promote high-quality, cost-effective audiologic care for Medicare patients, without increasing per-patient costs to the Medicare system. With 10,000 Americans becoming Medicare-eligible every day, it is critical for all members of the healthcare team to work to their full scope of practice. Federal health plans and most private insurance plans, including Medicare Advantage plans, already provide the access to care that is being sought for Medicare Part B patients under the Audiology Patient Choice Act.

About Audiologists:
An audiologist is a highly trained health care professional, specializing in the prevention, assessment and treatment of audiologic disorders. Audiologists are the only health care professionals who are university‐educated and licensed to specifically identify, evaluate, diagnose, and treat hearing and balance disorders, and to identify medical‐related conditions that require a referral to a medical doctor. Today, a Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree is required to become a clinical audiologist. Audiologists are licensed in all 50 states.

About ADA:
The Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) is dedicated to the advancement of practitioner excellence, high ethical standards, professional autonomy and sound business practices in the provision of quality audiologic care. ADA provides programming, services and resources to audiologists and students who are, or who desire to be, autonomous practitioners. Visit www.audiologist.org for more information.