Recent changes to Medicare rules have threatened access to critical devices for some patients with ALS and other debilitating diseases
Senators introduced the Steve Gleason Act to provide immediate relief to patients who have been denied access to SGDs and ensure other critical technologies are covered under Medicare
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and David Vitter (R-LA) announced that their bill to ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to speech-generating devices (SGDs) has passed the House. The bill previously passed the Senate, so it now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law. Recent changes to Medicare rules have threatened access to critical devices for some patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other debilitating diseases. The senators introduced the Steve Gleason Act to provide immediate relief to patients who have been denied access to SGDs and ensure other critical technologies are covered under Medicare.
“Speech-generating devices are life-changing tools for Americans affected by diseases like ALS,” Klobuchar said. “Today’s passage will help ensure that people with debilitating diseases have access to these critical devices so that they can communicate with their loved ones and lead independent lives.”
“This is a huge victory for ALS patients across the country. Making this equipment more accessible and affordable will give them the ability to communicate with their family and friends – even literally giving them a voice when they lose their ability to speak,” Vitter said. “Steve and the rest of Team Gleason have been an incredible inspiration. Thanks to their tireless work, we’ll be able change the lives of ALS patients and their families.”
After Medicare announced the changes, Klobuchar and Vitter urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reconsider its decision to alter coverage of SGDs. SGDs are speech aids that provide people who have severe speech impairments with the ability to meet their functional speaking needs. Patients who use SGDs include those with a wide variety of neurological and communication disabilities such as ALS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury.
The Steve Gleason Act is named after former New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. He is an advocate for others affected by ALS and uses a SGD to communicate. Organizations supporting the bill are Team Gleason, the American Speech Language Hearing Association, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, the ALS Association, the American Occupational Therapy Association, and the United Spinal Association.