CMS ISSUES NEW RULES FOR AUDIOLOGISTS IN MEDICAID
CMS today published new regulations that will give states greater flexibility in defining qualified Medicaid audiologists enabling them to broaden the pool of highly qualified providers from which beneficiaries may choose.
Currently, states have limited flexibility in defining who is a qualified audiologist. Under the final rule published in the May 28 Federal Register, Medicaid programs across the country will have to begin using the new definition. Like Medicare, the new definition relies on state licensure requirements and sets a minimum standard to be applied in states that don't require audiologists to be licensed.
"Greater consistency with Medicare and setting minimums standards, we believe, will improve the quality of care delivered to our Medicaid beneficiaries," said Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency within HHS that oversees the rule.
In states that exempt audiology services from licensure, the new rule will require audiologists to meet specific academic and clinical standards in order to become a Medicaid provider. Those minimum standards will also have to be met in states where the licensing requirements do not measure up to them.
"In conjunction with Medicare's quality standards, states will continue to have great flexibility in setting licensure standards that are appropriate for their own needs," noted Dr. McClellan.
States generally provide Medicaid audiology services under their home health benefit, or under optional benefits such as therapy and rehabilitation services.
Medicaid is a state/federal partnership program that provides health care coverage to over 41 million low-income children, elderly and disabled Americans. Over $280 billion was spent on the Medicaid program in 2003.