Nearly 30 million Americans suffer from hearing loss yet a small percentage have hearing aids. Why? Many simply can’t afford the high cost…and Medicare does not cover hearing aids and related audiology services.
Currently, Medicare Part B only covers hearing rehabilitation services for cases caused by an illness or accident. Progressive, age-related hearing loss is not covered, leaving many seniors to pay for their own hearing exams and hearing aids. Hearing aids are incredibly expensive, ranging from $600 to over $5,000 each. These high price tags discourage many seniors from seeking a very basic solution that could dramatically improve their lives.
Research shows even mild hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. Untreated hearing loss also contributes to balance problems and falls, isolation, depression and a greater incidence of stress-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Earlier this month, a Report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that hearing loss is a public health priority requiring national attention.
“Intervention would reduce the risks which come with hearing loss. This is hugely important in the case of dementia which, with the aging of the baby boomers, is a massive public health issue now. Hearing loss may be one of the few modifiable risk factors that could reduce the risk of dementia; however, hearing health care is still broadly inaccessible and expensive.”…Dr. Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health
“As always, there will be the critics who say “we can’t afford this” Well, yes we can. When the Affordable Care Act passed, 716 billion dollars in savings from Medicare were plowed right back into the program to provide expanded services such as preventive care and screenings at no cost to beneficiaries. And there are strategies such as restoring the pharmaceutical drug company rebates for medicines prescribed to dual-eligibles, people on both Medicare and Medicaid, which, according to CBO, could generate 121 billion dollars over ten years. If the Congressional will is there, we know it can be done.”…Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
Legislation introduced by Reps. Debbie Dingell (H.R. 1653), Jim McDermott (H.R. 5396) and Alan Grayson (H.R.3308) would close this gap in Medicare coverage. This legislation is vital to the health security of millions of Americans.
“Since its implementation in 1965, Medicare has enhanced health care for millions of Americans. But there are still major gaps in coverage. Given the growing numbers of older Americans who suffer from hearing loss, it’s time for that to change,” said Judith Stein, J.D., Executive Director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy.
“We don’t know exactly how much we spend on cases where we’re dealing with depression because they’re isolated…and hearing loss contributes to both. It’s absolutely critical that for an acceptable quality of life that people need to be able to hear the world around them. In order for seniors to keep a good quality of live, just keeping them alive isn’t enough, we must have good hearing and dental care. This is not beyond our capacity to provide this for seniors.”…Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
“We’ve got millions of Americans over 45 effected by hearing loss. If untreated it has devastating impacts on our nation. Medicare coverage should include audiology care, period. The promise of Medicare to keep Americans healthy is at stake. Medicare should cover all the vital health needs of seniors. Why are we arbitrarily leaving some out? There’s no reason for Medicare to remove the head from the body.”…Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)