Urge CMS to update policy to include speech generating devices like Steve Gleason’s


WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and David Vitter (R-LA), and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) today announced that the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is updating its Medicare coverage policy on speech-generating devices (SGDs), which addresses some of the issues mentioned in a bipartisan, bicameral letter sent last fall. The new CMS policy would finally allow patients to “unlock” devices and use communication tools like email and text message. Similar equipment is used by Steve Gleason, former professional football player with the New Orleans Saints. Klobuchar and Vitter recently passed the Steve Gleason Act through the Senate. It awaits a vote in the House of Representatives.

“This policy change is a step in the right direction, but it’s only one step,” said Klobuchar. “We still need to finish the job and pass the Steve Gleason Act to ensure that Americans with diseases like ALS have access to life-changing speech generating devices that help them lead full and independent lives. We passed this bill through the Senate with bipartisan support, and it’s time to move this bill forward so we can get it signed into law.

“CMS has finally acknowledged that its policy is outdated. And while this is an encouraging step forward, patients may still lose necessary devices if they are admitted to a facility,” Vitter said. “Frankly, this policy announcement won’t fix the problem unless we make the reforms in the Steve Gleason Act. We’ve passed this bipartisan legislation through the Senate – now we need to get a vote in the House of Representatives.”

“While it is certainly a promising step forward that CMS has finally responded to our letter, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to empower those with ALS and other debilitating diseases.  That’s why I remain committed to bringing the Steve Gleason Act to a vote in the House – and I will continue to champion the medical technology and scientific innovation that will save millions of lives,” said McMorris Rodgers.

“While CMS’s decision is a good first step, there is still much work to do in order to fully help those who can’t speak truly find their voice,” Scalise said. “I will continue working with Rep McMorris Rogers and my House colleagues to build upon Senator Vitter’s success in the Senate and get the bipartisan Steve Gleason Act passed and signed into law.”

The Senate unanimously passed the Steve Gleason Act of 2015, on April 22, 2015. Since being diagnosed with ALS, Gleason has since been confined to a wheel chair and lost his ability to speak. Gleason’s speech generating device has allowed him to regain his ability to communicate. Team Gleason has worked to provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases with leading-edge technology and create a global conversation about ALS to ultimately find effective treatment and a cure.