This morning I made a list of patients I need to contact to check on how they’re doing since closing my office at the beginning of April due to the COVID 19 pandemic. My patients are all Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in speech and/or swallowing therapy treatment for symptoms related to head and neck cancer, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.
This week, many of the commercial insurance plans, including United Health Care and Tricare, authorized coverage for speech therapy services to be delivered via telehealth. Providing treatment to patients via the telepractice format is something I have done for years, and I can tell you that it can be as effective as face:face treatment, a fact not only based on my own experience, but also substantiated by research within the fields of speech-language pathology and audiology.
So, why hasn’t CMS (Centers for Medicare) authorized expansion of payment for telehealth speech-language and swallowing treatment for it’s beneficiaries? Why must my patients and thousands of others be deprived necessary treatment due to physical distancing?
The impact of Coronavirus/COVID-19 on the ability of audiologists and SLPs to provide care to their patients and sustain their practices has placed increased significance on the efforts ASHA has undertaken with the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to identify a pathway for members to provide care to Medicare Part B beneficiaries requesting telepractice services. ASHA is urging payers and policy makers to ensure adequate access to audiology and speech-language pathology services during this unprecedented time.
I’m urging YOU, to take a few moments, as a Medicare beneficiary, to help raise awareness of the need for CMS to act.
So, please consider my request: If you are a Medicare beneficiary who is currently enrolled in out-patient speech or swallowing therapy, is waiting to be scheduled, or in the past benefitted from speech-language pathology services, please contact your state legislators and request coverage of telepractice for speech therapy services. Once you locate your legislator’s website (see link at bottom of the page) you will find a contact form to complete. You can write your own message or you you can copy and paste the message below, modifying the wording to apply to your situation:
Message to Your State Legislators
I am writing to you as a Medicare beneficiary whose access to out-patient (speech or swallowing) treatment has stopped (or is unable to be scheduled )due to facility closures and physical distancing in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Even though audiologists and SLPs are qualified providers of telehealth services, are licensed in states, reimbursed by private payers, and authorized by various state Medicaid plans to provide services in this manner, Medicare does not cover audiology and speech-language pathology services delivered via telehealth, and this may impact my health with a decline in function.
Audiologists and SLPs need to continue providing medically necessary care in a manner that promotes the safety of themselves and their patients while adhering to government recommendations to discourage the spread of the virus by limiting close contact with others, especially older individuals and those with underlying chronic disease diagnosis.
Not sure who your legislators are? https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
Thank you in advance for taking a few minutes to show that you care!
My MissionTo enlist individuals in their treatment, and help them express their personality & spirit through voice. To educate and empower. Mary Spremulli, MA, CCC-SLP * FiTOUR® Group Exercise Instructor * Voice Aerobics® A Whole Body Approach to Voice Practice