U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-La.) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced the bipartisan Steve Gleason Act of 2016, which would allow patients diagnosed with diseases such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to have permanent access to speech generating devices (SGDs). Vitter's and Klobuchar's legislation builds on the successes of the Steve Gleason Act of 2015, which provided immediate relief for patients who had been denied access to SGDs due to a Medicare policy change in 2014 and allowed them to have access to the medical equipment they needed.
"I've been working to make these crucial communication devices more accessible for several years now - with Steve Gleason, my Democrat colleague Senator Klobuchar, and so many others. Steve's inspiring advocacy work has laid a strong foundation to reform the current system to give people a voice who otherwise have no other way to communicate," said Vitter. "This is a common sense bill that empowers thousands of people living with speech and communication disabilities, and I urge my colleagues to quickly pass the Steve Gleason Act of 2016."
"Without speech generating devices, people who are suffering from diseases like ALS and Parkinson's can't communicate with their family members, caregivers, and friends. That's why I've worked with Senator Vitter to restore full access to speech-generating devices for those who need them," said Klobuchar. "I call on my colleagues to pass this important legislation and help us give patients their voices back."
The Steve Gleason Act is named for legendary New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason who lives with ALS. Vitter has been working with Steve and his foundation, Team Gleason, on legislation to help those in need of SGDs since early 2014.
Vitter and Klobuchar's bipartisan legislation would make the SGD exception from Medicare's capped rental rule a permanent fixture in federal law in order to make the medical equipment more accessible and more affordable for all patients living with speech and communication disabilities from conditions such as ALS, stroke, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, Rett Syndrome, and others. The Steve Gleason Act of 2015 created the SGD exception, but has a sunset date of October 1, 2018.
Since being diagnosed with ALS, Gleason has since been confined to a wheel chair and lost his ability to speak. Gleason's SGD has allowed him to regain his ability to communicate. Team Gleason has worked to provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases with leading edge technology and create a global conversation about ALS to ultimately find effective treatment and a cure.