Advocacy Begins at Home: Say I Do to State Dues
Stephanie Czuhajewski, MPH, CAE, Executive Director
The reintroduction of the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act (MAASA) will bring forward opportunities to engage members of Congress regarding the importance of audiovestibular health, early intervention, and the important role of audiologists in the delivery of hearing and balance care. MAASA, if enacted, will reclassify audiologists as practitioners within the Medicare system, allow Medicare Part B patients to have direct access to audiology services, and reimburse audiologists for the Medicare-covered services that they are licensed to provide. MAASA will make tremendous improvements to Medicare policies—but it will neither preempt state licensure laws, nor will it compensate for state laws that are poorly constructed.
State Laws Have the Biggest Impact on Day-to-Day Practice
State scope of practice and licensure laws determine whether audiologists can practice at the top of their training, and how, when, where, and in what manner those audiology services are delivered. State advocacy is fundamental for advancement of the profession and state audiology associations should be your go-to resource for monitoring and improving state laws that affect audiologists and practice owners every day.
Telehealth. The COVID-19 pandemic brought telehealth to the forefront for audiologists and their patients. State laws and regulations determine whether it is permissible for audiologists to provide services via telehealth, what services can be provided via telehealth, the requirements for delivering services via telehealth, and Medicaid coverage for telehealth services. During the pandemic, many states implemented emergency or executive orders that have temporarily expanded opportunities for the provision of telehealth services by audiologists and/or have temporarily removed certain requirements in the provision of telehealth services. As some of these executive orders expire, audiologists must be prepared to take a leadership role in shaping permanent state telehealth policies.
Licensure and Scope of Practice. State laws govern occupational licensure requirements and scope of practice for audiologists and other professions. These laws vary substantially across the 50 states and U.S. territories. Many state laws are unclear, employ archaic requirements or limits, and do not adequately reflect a scope of practice that is commensurate with the education, training, and qualifications of audiologists. Licensure and scope of practice are foundational for patient access to care and advancement of audiology as a clinical doctoring profession. State licensure bodies and authorities governing the practice of audiology are not uniformly structured and often oversee multiple professions.
Interstate Compact. Another state initiative is the Audiology & Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact (ASLP-IC). The ASLP-IC is a cooperative agreement among participating states which will facilitate the practice of audiology and speechlanguage pathology across state lines, by allowing audiologists licensed in participating states to practice in other participating states using their home state license. If the interstate compact is enacted, an audiologist practicing in a member state would be required to adhere to that state’s scope of practice. The ASLP-IC is expected to become operational within the next year once it is enacted by 10 states.
The above are but a few examples of areas where state laws intersect with the practice of audiology. ADA encourages you to be actively involved with your state association—and is currently offering financial incentives for members who say “I do” to state membership dues. Visit https://audiologist.org/item/collect-your-ada-reward-for-saying-i-do-to-state-dues for more information! ■