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 Senate. 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.
“For Americans affected by debilitating diseases, speech generating devices are life-changing tools that allow them to communicate with their loved ones and lead independent lives,” Klobuchar said. “Medicare’s recent rule changes deny some patients access to these critical devices and threaten their quality of life. This commonsense bill will help ensure that Americans with devastating diseases have the tools they need to engage with their family, caregivers, and friends.”
“Living with ALS is a tremendous challenge for the patients and their families. Our bill will help empower ALS patients to live and work more independently, and give them an opportunity to communicate with their loved ones,” Vitter said. “Speech generating devices, like the equipment Steve Gleason uses, are a necessary part of everyday life for patients with ALS and similar diseases. To say that Steve and the rest of Team Gleason have been an inspiration is an understatement. Through their incredible work, we’ll be able to change the lives of patients across the country by giving them their voices back."
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.