CMS will reconsider how speech generating devices are covered

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will reconsider how speech-generating devices are covered, a small victory for Americans with neurological and degenerative disabilities, and for a bipartisan delegation that supports the move.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) and John Tierney (D-Mass.) have led an effort against CMS’ decision not to pay for the devices – which can cost between $7,000 and $14,000 – if they incorporate features other than face-to-face communication.

The four lawmakers were joined by a bipartisan group of nearly 200 that signed a letter that was sent to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in September, requesting an explanation for the policy changes. On Wednesday, the group released the following statement:

“We are happy to see CMS acknowledge the fact that 21st century technology is changing lives by enabling millions of Americans to communicate with their loved ones, their medical providers and the rest of the outside world — because without this technology, their degenerative and crippling medical conditions made communication impossible. This decision marks a step in the right direction, and hopefully a step toward CMS embracing modern innovation in their coverage and payment decisions.

“Still, there is much more work to be done — and we urge CMS to address the other issues we raised in our September letter, such as how CMS’ capped rental policy disproportionately affects patients who rely on speech-generating devices. Together, we will continue to advocate for this community, and we are hopeful CMS will continue to support these life-changing technologies.”