Public Policy

NSHA Lobbyist

In March 2013 NSHA received a generous grant from ASHA. NSHA was able to hire Lobbyist Marlene Lockard. Marlene and her staff were active during the 2013 Legislative session monitoring and advocating on issues and upcoming bills related to Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists in our state.  NSHA and Ms. Lockard were successful in meeting our two objectives: 1) maintaining the autonomy of the Nevada Board of Examiners for Audiology and Speech Pathology, and 2) maintaining the 5% salary supplement for school-based SLPs in Nevada.

Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010: What does the new health care law mean to you?

This year children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance coverage. Did you know that newborns with cleft palates are considered to have pre-existing conditions and aren’t covered? Did you know that 3 year old suspected of being deaf was denied sedated hearing testing? Did you know that a healthy 5 year old with a shunt can’t get health insurance? Did you know that an 8 year old student with leukemia had her insurance cancelled?  As educators and parents, I think you will agree we want our children to be healthy! As the slogan goes “Healthy students are crucial for great public schools”.

Nothing in the law requires employers to drop or change coverage, so employees who currently have employer sponsored coverage should continue to get their health benefits in the same manner that they do. Most of us are insured by our employers, but if you lose your job or change jobs, a yeast infection in the past decade or a pregnancy could be deemed a pre-existing condition (heaven forbid if you are a diabetic, a cancer survivor, or like my sister with MS who lost her job!) This year 2010, the new law will give people uninsured because of pre-existing conditions access to affordable insurance through a temporary subsidized high-risk pool. In 2014 (when reforms are fully implemented) insurance companies will be banned from denying health insurance coverage to people of all ages because of pre-existing conditions.

These are the changes that will take effect in our health system in 2010:

  • Six months after enactment, young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance plan up to their 26th birthday.
  • Insurance companies can no longer drop someone when he or she becomes ill.
  • Health Insurers must now reveal how much money is spent on overhead.
  • New health insurance plans must cover checkups and other preventative care without co-pays.
  • New measures will be implemented to help eliminate health insurance waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • Small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) will get tax credits covering up to 50% of premiums.
  • Seniors on Medicare will get a rebate to fill the “donut hole” in their drug coverage.
  • Insurers will be required to put more premiums dollars toward actual health care services, not administration, advertising, or profits.
  • Insurance premium increases will have to be reviewed and justified.
  • Lifetime caps on the amount of insurance a person can have, will be banned.
  • Early retirees will receive help to reduce premium costs.
  • Significant new investments to train primary care doctors, nurses, and public health professionals and the creation of state-level consumer assistance programs to help all patients understand and defend their new rights.

I urge you to become knowledgeable about the New Health Care Law signed on March 23, 2010. This is historic legislation. Break through the myths, misconceptions, chatter and get to the substance of the new law. AARP bulletins contain detailed guides for people age 50 and older. The NEA website describes the new law as “affordable health care for America and an historic victory for working families”. NEA supported the reform except for the “excise tax on high-cost health plans” the so-called Cadillac plans provided by employers. Not successful in eliminating the tax, changes were made in the final law. The tax will not take effect until 2018. Dollar thresholds were increased to $10,200 for single coverage and $27,500 for family coverage. So starting in 2018, if total premiums for your family are above a certain level a year (including both what you pay each month for insurance and what your employer pays for you)…the insurer will have to pay a tax on the cost of your plan that is above the thresholds.

The overhaul of our broken health care system as laid out in the 2010 Health Care Law takes effect over 10 years! Each year you need to get informed. Here are some of the upcoming changes:

  • 2011: Creates voluntary Long Term Care Insurance program to help disabled people stay in their homes or cover nursing home costs.  Benefits can start 5 years after people start paying a fee for the coverage. Donut Hole:  50% discount on brand name drugs and other discounts. Increase funding for Community Health Centers.
  • 2012: Sets up program to create nonprofit insurance co-ops that would compete with for profit commercial insurers. Medicare payment changes to encourage hospitals and doctors to band together “in quality driven accountable care organizations” along the lines of the Mayo Clinic.
  • 2013: Standardize insurance company paperwork, first in a series of steps to reduce administrative costs.  Increases Medicare payroll tax on couples making more than $250,000 and individuals  making more than $200,000.
  • 2014: Requires citizens and legal residents to have health insurance, except in cases of financial hardship. Coverage expansion goes into high gear as states create new health insurance exchanges: supermarkets for individuals and small businesses to buy overage. Medicaid expanded to cover low-income people, including childless adults.
  • 2020: Donut Hole coverage gap in Medicare prescription benefit is phased out. (My mom’s nongeneric  meds to slow her Alzheimer’s Disease cost $300 a month during “gap” from August to December each year.)

We have a new law in the land. It is not a perfect law. There will be revisions and changes as time goes on just like there has been in Social Security and Medicare. Be educated. Be hopeful. Be Healthy!

Submitted by Valerie J. McNay, Ph.D, CCC/SLP

NSHA was instrumental in getting legislation passed that provides SLPs with a salary supplement, which is equivalent to school teachers’ national board certification!

In the future, NSHA will advocate for a salary supplement for Audiologists.