Current NCAA Legislative and Policy Issues
Audiology Assistants Enhancements
Audiology Assistants in North Carolina have been under-utilized when compared to their counterparts in other states. When the COVID-19 crisis broke, Governor Cooper passed an executive order that provided for the expansion of tele-health and tele-medicine practices for audiology assistants. Your NCAA saw this as an opportunity to make progress in this area and was successful in having the emergency declaration changed to a temporary rule. The Board of Examiners for Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists meet and voted to support the change from a temporary to a permanent rule. There is a "public comment" period that ends on March 16th. NCAA will, of course, be forwarding a letter of support for the changes.
There will be a public comment period that allows interested parties to post thoughts on the proposed permanent rule. This is the link to the OAH website.
Your NCAA will be submitting comments in support of the rule change and we encourage our members to do so as well. Look for an update on how to do that in an upcoming Legislative and Policy Update.
Your NCAA was aggressive in working to take advantage to the Governor’s Executive order. We broached the idea of making this temporary situation permanent with the Board of Examiners for Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists and they were very receptive.
During the fall of 2020 the Board of Examiners took up the proposed rule a few times, considering thoughts and feedback from a variety of sources. The Board voted to approve the proposed rule in December.
As noted elsewhere, the process now turns to the Office of Administrative Hearings. That office is responsible for soliciting public comment and deciding whether to make this temporary rule a permanent one.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives. The practice of Audiology has not been exempt from its impact. The General Assembly enacted some measures that affect the practice of audiology during the pandemic, including protections for practitioners. Your NCAA continues to monitor all state and federal actions related to the pandemic that may affect the practice. In 2020 the NC General Assembly enacted measures to protect practitioners during this crisis. You can find these protections by going to the “Access the Bill” button and scrolling down to page 25.
Your NCAA was a vocal advocate in support of the legal protections for health care professionals providing services during the COVID-19 Crisis. We will continue to monitor any additional COVID related legislation at either the Federal or State Levels.
Your North Carolina Audiology Association introduced and worked to ensure the passage of House Bill 1053, “PED/Military OL and Audiology Interstate Compact. The legislation, sponsored by Representatives Horn, Lucas, Boles, Corbin, Grange, Harrison, McNeill and Willingham and by Senator Wells made North Carolina a member of the Interstate Compact for Audiology and Speech Pathology.
The Compact increases public access to audiology and speech-language pathology services by providing for the mutual recognition of other member state licenses. The Compact enhances a states ability to protect the public's health and safety, enhances the exchange of licensure, investigative and disciplinary information between member states, allows for the use of tele- health technology to facilitate increased access to audiology and speech- language pathology services and supports the spouses of relocating active- duty military personnel.
The Compact will become effective as soon as 10 states pass similar legislation. As of now 6 states, including North Carolina have passed the legislation with many others set to do so in 2021.
Getting this legislation passed presents a good example of opportunistic lobbying on the part of your NCAA. Originally, we thought we would work to pass the Compact during the 2021 legislative session. But an opportunity presented itself when Representative Horn introduced House bill 1053, "PED/Military Licensure." The bill would allow the spouses of active military duty members moving into the state to practice Audiology without having to re-license in North Carolina.
We saw this as a vehicle to try and pass the Interstate Compact language as well. We approached Representative Horn with the idea and he agreed to add the Compact language to the bill. We were joined in our effort by the North Carolina Speech Hearing and Language Association whose lobbyist Ashley Perkinson worked closely with us. Also joining the effort was Nahale Kalfas Counsel to the Council of State Governments and Rick Masters who literally wrote the book on Interstate Compacts. The Department of Defense also supported our efforts and wrote letters to that effect.
The Bill passed unanimously in both Houses and was signed into law by Governor McCrory on July 2nd 2020!