Reauthorization of Federal Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Law at Risk
For the past 1 1/2 years, American Cochlear Implant Alliance has collaborated with other organizations in the field to reauthorize the highly successful EHDI legislation that has served to dramatically improve the timely identification of young children with hearing loss in our country. ACI Alliance worked on language that was incorporated into the proposed legislation that emphasizes the importance of parent information so that families can make informed early choices about technology and communication options. Our membership visited with legislative offices in October 2015 to emphasize the importance of the legislation.
At this writing, the Senate had still not passed a bill. The House bill was passed last year. If a bill is not passed by Thursday of this week, it is highly likely that there will be no legislation passed before the holiday recess and the process will need to begin again next year. This is risky both because we know the focus will be on other aspects of healthcare and also we could lose the excellent language that now exists in the House bill.
We are urging our members to make phone calls today to two Senators who have the power to move this forward. Please review the recommended calling instructions below and take action ASAP. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. Thank you very much for your interest and support.
Donna Sorkin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Act Now to Reauthorize
Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act
The EHDI Bill (Early Hearing Detection and Intervention) is currently stalled in the Senate. If the bill is not approved this week, it is unlikely that it will be reauthorized in 2016.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) (Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions or HELP Committee) may be the only people with the power to push through the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act in the Senate (S.2424) this year. Please call their offices today and request that they send this bill, as currently written and without changes, to the Senate floor.
If changes are made to the bill by the Senate, the House must go back and pass the Senate’s amended version. The House passed its version of the bill by unanimous consent in 2015. The House is expected to adjourn this week, the last day of the 114th Congress. If the House adjourns before they can pass the Senate version, the EHDI bill dies for this session of Congress and we will need to start over next year during a time of major planned changes in health care. That would be a very high hurdle.
Please take a moment and contact the offices of Senators McConnell and Alexander to request that these leaders bring up the HOUSE PASSED VERSION of the EHDI bill for a vote as soon as possible.
Reauthorizing this bill with the language on comprehensive parent advisement is an ACI Alliance priority. Please call these numbers today. It is fine to leave a message if no one answers. Be brief.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Main Office Line: 202.224.2541. Leave voicemail if no one answers
Majority Leader Office: 202.224.3135
FAX Number: 202.224.2499. Old fashioned but possibly the best way to get something in front of staff this week.
HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander:
Main Office Line: 202.224.4944
In your call, please make the following points:
- Very briefly note you work with children with hearing loss at ___________ (name of your clinic or school).
- Please hotline this bill. It has been in the HELP Committee for a year.
- Please do not make changes to the bill. The House passed the bill in September 2015 on suspension of the rules.
- This legislation does not request increased funding; it asks for the same level of funding that was authorized for the last five years.
- This is not controversial legislation; it would be the third reauthorization of EHDI.
- Before EHDI, fewer than 40 percent of babies born in the US were screened for hearing loss.
- If a baby is not screened, the parents may not notice a hearing loss for 2-3 years and the child’s language and potential is negatively impacted for life.
EHDI legislation was championed by House Members Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Lois Capps (D-CA) and passed the House last year. The bill has been with the HELP Committee since that time. The Senate must now pass the bill and get it to the President for the program to be reauthorized.
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the bill in December 2015. It has been cosponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators, which currently number 14. This legislation would reauthorize the federal portion of this important and highly successful initiative for the next five years.
EHDI grants were first authorized in the Newborn Infant Hearing Screening and Intervention Act of 1999, which was incorporated into the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2000, and signed into law. That law provided federal funds for state grants to develop infant hearing screening and intervention programs. The following year, Congress reauthorized these grants through the Children's Health Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-310), and included provisions related to early hearing screening and evaluation of all newborns, coordinated intervention, rehabilitation services, and research. In 2010, Congress passed the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2010, which authorized these programs through 2015.
Although great strides have been made, significant work remains to be done to ensure that newborns with hearing loss receive timely and appropriate services. The Bill addresses the need for parents to receive information on all options and all hearing technologies that may help a child with hearing loss. Continued federal funding is necessary to ensure that state EHDI programs become fully operational and successful, and that they properly link screening programs with diagnosis and early intervention.
Support Reauthorization of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act
Donna L. Sorkin, MA, Executive Director, ACI Alliance
Due in part to awareness created during the visits of ACI Alliance advocates to Congressional offices last October, Senators Portman (R-OH) and Gillibrand (D-NY) became co-sponsors of the EHDI reauthorization with S.2424 introduced just prior to the December recess. The proposed bill would continue the support provided to states to carry out EHDI activities. It also includes language requiring parent information on language development options and technology. The challenge now is to keep the bill moving during a difficult political environment. We have been encouraged to have you, our members, make contact with your US Senators to encourage them to support reauthorization by becoming Co-Sponsors.
We have made the process as easy as possible. Please send an email to the offices of both US Senators in your state. A suggested template letter may be found HERE. A list of the Health Legislative Assistants for each office with their personal email and phone number may be found HERE. The letter should go to the staffer directly (not the Senator). Email is the best way to communicate with Congressional offices as regular mail is screened and can take many weeks to reach the intended recipient. Please personalize the attached template letter so that it does not read like a form letter. After you have sent the letter, please follow up with both offices by calling and requesting to speak with the Health Legislative Assistant who you wrote to. If the person is unavailable, leave a message on their voicemail and restate your support of the EHDI Reauthorization. Urge for their Senator’s co-sponsorship of the bill, which is Senate 2424.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact ACI Alliance for help. Please try to send your letters within the next week so that we can impact the Senate offices quickly and with maximum effect.
Please send a copy of your letters to ACI Alliance Outreach Director Susan Thomas (email@example.com
) so that we can track our progress. Thank you for being part of our efforts to improve access to appropriate hearing and timely care for children.