Enduring Access to SGDs: Your Action Needed

In 2014, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) stopped paying for eye gaze technologies, and classified speech generating devices (SGDs) in the category of durable medical equipment (DME) that was required to be rented for 15 months prior to purchase.  The “capped rental” requirement put Medicare recipients at risk of losing access to their device should they move to hospice, subject to the “place of use” limitation in the Medicare rules.  CMS said the “fix” needed to be done by Congress. 


Thanks to advocacy by SGD stakeholders and lead by “Team Gleason,” Congress unanimously passed S. 984 — 114th Congress: Steve Gleason Act of 2015. It was signed into law by President Obama on July 30, 2015, amending the Social Security Act to provide Medicare beneficiary access to eye tracking accessories for speech generating devices and to remove the rental cap. Watch this video clip to learn more.


However, the “fix” on capped rental is set to expire in 2018.  Accordingly, the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act of 2017, H.R. 2465, was introduced in May, 2017. This bill would eliminate the "sunset" of the Steve Gleason Act of 2015, exempting speech generating devices from the class of durable medical equipment that must be rented under Medicare and providing for continuous access and ownership in the event the recipient moves into a non-covered setting (e.g. hospice).


On July 20th, the bill was reviewed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee during a hearing held to examine 11 bipartisan bills that would improve Medicare. One panelist, Ms. Lisa Bardach, Speech-Language Pathologist, ALS of Michigan, and current USSAAC member, testified in support of this legislation.


Ms. Bardach highlighted how legislation to address Speech Generating Devices (SGDs) has evolved, sharing stories about patients who have relied on communication devices to share messages ranging from the simplest to the most serious. Ms. Bardach stated, “The Steve Gleason Act of 2015 removed SGDs from the category of capped rental and reinstated them in the category of frequently purchased equipment. Simply put, it ensured that beneficiaries would have access to their necessary and personalized communication technology, even in the event of residence in nursing home, hospital, or hospice. The Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act of 2017 will remove the sunset date, protecting extremely vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries from ever having to relinquish their only means of communication.”


Check the list of Current Sponsors (as of July 2017):

·      House (currently 71 members)

·      Senate (currently 7 members)


If your Congressman/woman or Senator is not already a sponsor of this act, please contact him/her! 


Thank you for reading this blog post. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of USSAAC members and board members. No endorsement by USSAAC is implied regarding any device, manufacturer, resource or strategy mentioned. We would love to hear from you. Please connect with us through or or send an email to membership@ussaac.org


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