WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) issued the following statement today after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) indicated they have decided to update Medicare’s coverage policy on speech-generating devices (SGDs). Their proposal addresses one of the issues mentioned in a bipartisan, bicameral letter sent last August to the Secretary of HHS by over 200 Members of the House and Senate. The new CMS policy would take the important step of ensuring patients that they can “unlock” their devices and use communication tools like email and text messages. For patients who are severely disabled, often confined to wheelchairs, these innovations are critical. Similar equipment is used by Steve Gleason, former professional football player with the New Orleans Saints.
“It is certainly a promising step forward that CMS has finally responded to concerns expressed in our letter, which over 200 bipartisan Members have signed and supported. The ability to use these devices for not only speaking, but also for accessing email and text, allows patients to communicate with loved ones and doctors in a way they previously could not. But for families across Eastern Washington, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. Our legislation, the Steve Gleason Act, proactively undertakes innovative eye tracking alternatives and speech-generating devices for those who can no longer speak or type, and addresses the placement of these devices under the ‘capped rental’ category. This common-sense legislation offers support to those who have already been challenged by so much. I applaud my colleagues, Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) for their successful efforts to pass this through the Senate, and look forward to moving this bill through the House with my colleague Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). 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.”