The Student Academy of Audiology Visits Washington, D.C.
It was a busy day in July as the members of the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) Board of Directors (BOD) climbed the house steps for meetings with their elected representatives. Each member of the SAA BOD knew they had a chance to influence change, open minds, and educate others about audiology, and they were ready to advocate. Adam Finkel, the Academy’s Associate Director of Government Relations, helped prepare each member to spread the word. Advocacy can be accomplished in many ways. Whether sending a handwritten letter to one’s elected official or making a hill visit, it’s the courage to stand up and speak out for our future; that is advocacy. The more comfortable and confident we become in talking with others about what an audiologist is and why audiology is important to our healthcare system, the more likely the ripple effect of change will begin.
The SAA BOD made eleven hill visits with representatives from across the country. Some of the offices visited included Representative Elizabeth Etsy from Connecticut (D-CT-5), Representative Diana DeGette from Colorado (D-CO-1), Representative Jim Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin (R-WI-5), and Representative Billy Long from Missouri (R-MO-7). Each member of the SAA BOD was prepared to discuss legislation and educate the representatives and staff about important audiology issues. Some current legislation that were of focus included the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act, Access to Frontline Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 2042), and Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act (S.48). Along with current legislation, each SAA BOD member focused on helping their audience role an audiologist plays in healthcare today.
The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act is up for reauthorization. This means it needs to be passed by Congress for the services EHDI provides to children and their families to continue. This version of EHDI will not authorize an increase in funding, rather it will increase the age of children who can qualify for EHDI services to include young children without increasing the amount of money the program receives from the government. This legislation will make improvements on the last EHDI bill by clarifying the role of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). It will also improve access to services when a hearing loss is identified. The EHDI Act is important to our profession. It impacts the patients we serve and the way in which we practice. An update on the progress of EHDI is provided here.
The Access to Frontline Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 2042) was designed as a way for underserved populations with a need for medical professionals to have improved access to the care they require. If this bill is enacted it would provide a loan repayment program that is housed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Frontline Providers Loan Repayment Program under HHS would make student loan repayments in exchange for service in health care facilities deemed “in need” due to a frontline scarcity in their areas. The service would be 2 years to qualify for loan repayment. Currently, this bill needs more bipartisan support to get off the ground in these changing economic times.
The last audiology piece of legislation that the SAA BOD brought to focus on their visits was the Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act (S. 48). This bill has bipartisan support. A fundamental part of this bill is that a tax credit would be given up to $500.00 towards the purchase of a hearing aid, every five years for patients in need. This bill addresses the need for hearing intervention and the cost of not treating a person’s hearing loss to our overall society in lost wages, health complications, and special education costs. It also proposes a way to make hearing aid technology more available to those in need. Lastly, every SAA BOD member spoke from their hearts on why audiology is important and why their patients’ care matters. With the goal of making those in our government aware of what an audiologist does, whom they serve, and what impact they can have on our society, the Washington D.C. hill visits were a success.
Always remember that you have a voice as you reflect on policies and follow new action plans/legislation in audiology. Your voice matters. Your passion for this profession can take you far, and all it requires is the courage to step-up and try. SAA is here to support you on your advocacy journey. Please feel free to reach out to the Public Outreach Committee for any further questions, organizing capital visits, and sharing your passion for the future in audiology advocacy.
Hanna Sawher (pictured above) is currently a fourth year graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. Her audiological interests include pediatrics in general, diagnostics, amplification and cochlear implants. Hanna is completing her fourth-year externship at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. She is currently the SAA Public Outreach Committee Chair for 2017-2018.