WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 14, 2017) – This Spring, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) introduced the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act to permanently fix the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) policy that limited access to speech generating devices for people with degenerative diseases. Yesterday, this legislation went before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health for consideration, passing the Subcommittee on a unanimous vote. During yesterday’s markup, the Congresswoman offered opening remarks on the need for this important legislation in helping those in Eastern Washington, and across the country, have access to this life-changing medical technology. This bill will now await consideration before the full Energy and Commerce Committee.
NOTE: In 2014, after CMS regulatory changes threatened access to speech generating devices for those with ALS and other degenerative diseases, Spokane native Steve Gleason wrote an open letter to Congress. Shortly after, Steve’s mother, Gail Gleason, and members of the ALS Association approached Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, expressing concerns of these policy changes and the impact they will have on people like Steve and all those who depend on these devices.
In September of 2014, following these meetings, the Congresswoman led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to CMS with more than 200 Members of the House and Senate, regarding their arbitrary decision. Not long after, Rep. McMorris Rodgers formally introduced the Steve Gleason Act to temporarily address these issues within CMS.
In July of 2015, the Steve Gleason Act became law, providing a two-year extension on coverage of speech generating devices by CMS. Now, the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act aims to provide a permanent fix and certainty for the countless Americans who rely on this important medical technology to be able to communicate and live full lives.
Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ remarks as prepared:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“I want to thank the Committee for all their hard work not only my Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act but the six other Medicare bills up for consideration today.
“In 2015, this Congress passed the original Steve Gleason Act, it temporarily removed SGDs from the Medicare “Capped Rental” category protecting patient access to medically necessary Speech Generating Devices for those with severe communication disabilities.
“Today, we have the opportunity to move towards making that protection permanent.
“The Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act returns SGDs to the “Routinely Purchased” DME payment category ensuring proper and effective coverage exists in the future for the patients who rely on these critical devices each and every day.
“By supporting this legislation, you are giving a voice to the voiceless, because everyone deserves a voice; and everyone deserves to be heard.
“Thank you, I yield back.”
# # #