1965 Medicare and Medicaid were enacted as Title XVIII and Title XIX of the Social Security Act, extending health coverage to almost all Americans aged 65 or older (e.g., those receiving retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board), and providing health care services to low-income children deprived of parental support, their caretaker relatives, the elderly, the blind, and individuals with disabilities. Seniors were the population group most likely to be living in poverty; about half had insurance coverage.
Medicare is the federal health plan for citizens 65 years of age and older and/or those with significant disabilities. Medicare reimbursement rates are determined at the federal level under the auspices of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Medicaid provides medical assistance for qualifying individuals with low incomes and few resources. Medicaid is funded jointly by State and Federal governments in order to provide States the ability to offer adequate medical care to those in need. Medicaid is run within broad federally mandated guidelines which allow states the flexibility to establish their own eligibility standards, determine the type, duration, and scope of services, and set the rate of payment for services. As a result, benefits and programs vary considerably from state to state.
For more information, see:
- What is Medicare? What is Medicaid? publication
- Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Medicaid Coverage of Hearing Aids
What is Medicaid?
Title XIX of the Social Security Act outlines a program to provide medical assistance for certain individuals with low incomes and few resources. The program, known widely as Medicaid, is federal law and is funded jointly by State and Federal governments in order to provide States the ability to offer adequate medical care to those in need. Medicaid is run within broad federally mandated guidelines which allow states the flexibility to establish their own eligibility standards, determine the type, duration, and scope of services, and set the rate of payment for services. As a result benefits and programs vary considerably from state to state.
This research details the coverage of hearing aids and related services under Medicaid programs in the fifty states. Hearing health services are optional under Federal guidelines for minimum coverage and as a result many states do not cover hearing health services for adults.
Children are covered by a federally mandated program referred to as EPSDT, (Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment program) which provides for hearing health services as well as other services for eligible children up to the age of 18 in all states, unless otherwise listed. Individuals interested in the Medicaid services should contact their state’s Medicaid office using the information provided in the database.
HLAA Supports the HEAR Act
July 14, 2015
The time has come for Medicare to cover the cost of expensive hearing aids. On June 9, 2015, HLAA penned a letter of support for the Help Extend Auditory Relief (HEAR) Act, H.R 2748. On June 12, 2015, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright announced the reintroduction of the HEAR Act, H.R 2748 with the support of 10 members of Congress. Cartwright first introduced the HEAR Act in 2013.
The HEAR Act would provide Medicare coverage for hearing rehabilitation services, including a comprehensive audiology assessment to determine if a hearing aid is appropriate.
The bill would also extend Medicare coverage to hearing aids.
“HLAA receives numerous calls and emails from people seeking help and information about hearing loss. By far the call we receive most often is the one seeking help purchasing hearing aids. It’s particularly troubling that seniors with hearing loss have very few places to turn when they cannot afford a hearing aid. We will never forget the son who called us desperate for help and guilt-ridden that he could not afford to finance the cost of two hearing aids for his 85-year-old mother,” said Anna Gilmore Hall, executive director of HLAA.
HLAA Supports HR 1653, the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2015
April 8, 2015
On March 27, Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan introduced the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2015. Representative Dingell spoke of the need for change.
“I have learned in recent months how many seniors are burdened by this problem,” said Dingell. “When I learned of this, the ENT doctor who brought it to my attention told me more than half the patients she saw who needed a hearing aid were unable to afford or obtain one. No one should feel isolated, confused or shut out from the world around them because they cannot afford the treatment they need. This bill is just one piece of the puzzle to bring our fragmented and unnavigable health care system into the 21st Century to better serve seniors and families.”
Representative Dingell’s bill would improve access to hearing aids and related examinations by removing part of the Social Security Act that prevents Medicare from covering hearing aids. The bill also directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on insurance programs that provide services to help with hearing loss.
HLAA is thrilled that Representative Dingell has introduced this bill. We will be working to ensure that all members of Congress understand the importance of hearing health care for seniors.
CMS Final Rules Cover the Cost of Bone-Anchored Hearing Devices
November 15, 2014
October 31, 2014: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule that codifies the Medicare policy guidance when a device is not subject to the hearing aid exclusion. The rule finalizes that certain auditory implants, including cochlear implants, brain stem implants, and osseointegrated (bone-anchored) implants, do not meet the definition of hearing aids that are excluded from coverage.
Direct any questions to the CMS Office of Legislation at 202.690.8220 if you have any questions. Or visit the Federal Register page for more information.
HLAA Opposes CMS’ Proposed Rules on Bone-Anchored Hearing Devices
September 10, 2014
September 2, 2014, Hearing Loss Association of America filed comments with CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) in opposition to the proposed roll back of rules that would disallow Medicare coverage for bone-anchored hearing devices. We argued that these devices should be considered prosthetic devices under the rules, and that the coverage should include both osseointegrated devices and any innovations that are developed to help those who cannot successfully use hearing aids, such as dental-anchored conductive devices.
These proposed rules could hurt many people who would benefit from bone anchored devices, and those people who are already have these devices who may no longer be able to afford to have them repaired or upgraded. It’s not clear where people who could use these devices will turn if the CMS proposed rules are adopted.
Over 11,000 people signed a petition that specifically asked CMS to cover the Baha, osseointegrated implant system. And over 4,000 comments were sent to CMS on this docket, although to be sure, there were several other issues teed up in this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, making it difficult to get a count of the number of comments on the reclassification of bone-anchored devices as hearing aids. http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=CMS-2014-0092
HLAA sincerely hopes that CMS will reconsider this proposed rule. If the rule is adopted as is, it could impact the availability not only for Medicare patients, but for people who rely on private insurance as well, because private insurers tend to do as Medicare does. To classify these devices as hearing aids, would not only be wrong, it would relegate this technology to those who can afford these devices out of pocket.
CMS Proposes Rule Change Eliminating Medicare Funding for Bone-Anchored Implants
Comments Due September 2, 2014
August 13, 2014
HLAA is concerned about the proposed roll back of rules by CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) that would disallow Medicare coverage for bone-anchored hearing devices. These proposed rules could hurt many people who would benefit from bone anchored devices, including those who have no other option to turn to. If the rule goes forward intact, it could impact the availability not only for Medicare patients, but for people who rely on private insurance as well. In short, those people who don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on implants will have few places to turn to simply be able to hear.
When the law enacting Medicare was drafted, language was written that specifically excluded coverage for hearing aids: Medicare will not pay for any part A or part B expenses incurred for items or services related to “hearing aids or examination for the purpose of prescribing, fitting, or changing of hearing aids.”
In 2005, CMS issued a notice indicating that Medicare contractors will pay for osseointegrated (bone-anchored) auditory and brainstem auditory devices as prosthetic devices when indicated, that is, where hearing aids are medically inappropriate or cannot be used. Osseointegrated devices were defined as devices implanted in the skull that replace the function of the middle ear and provide mechanical energy to the cochlear via a mechanical transducer. Consumers know these devices as the Baha the Pronto.
Because of Medicare’s inclusion of Osseointegrated implants, some private insurers have also covered these devices. Thousands of people in the U.S. have benefited from these devices, saying they are “life changing.”
On July, 11, 2014, CMS posted a request for comments on a proposed rule change: they have come to the conclusion that all air or bone conduction hearing devices, whether external, internal or implanted, including middle ear implants, dental anchored bone conduction devices and other types of external or non-invasive devices are hearing aids, and thus, not covered under Medicare.
HLAA will be filing comments with CMS in opposition to this new rule. You too can send in comments, too.
For more information:
The Cochlear Corporation has additional informant and has linked their webpage to the comments page for CMS and a petition on Change.org.
Oticon, the maker of Pronto another bone-anchored hearing device, has also weighed in
Consumers can file comments!
Comments can be filed at http://www.regulations.gov and should refer to file code CMS–1614–P, 42 CFR Parts 405, 411, 413, et al. Medicare Program; End-Stage Renal Disease Prospective Payment System, Quality Incentive Program, and Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies; Proposed Rule, clarify the statutory Medicare hearing aid coverage exclusion and specify devices not subject to the hearing aid exclusion.
The notice can be found at:
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-07-11/pdf/2014-15840.pdf pages 40295-40297
Comments are due no later than 5 pm on September 2, 2014.
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Hearing Aid Coverage Under Medicare: You CAN Make a Difference!
Introduced by Representative Matt Cartwright from Pennsylvania, the Help Extend Auditory Relief Act of 2013, the HEAR Act (HR 3150), would:
- amend the Social Security Act to include Medicare coverage for hearing rehabilitation, including a comprehensive audiology assessment to determine if a hearing aid is appropriate, a threshold test to determine audio acuity, and various services associated with fitting, adjusting, and using hearing aids.
- extend Medicare coverage to hearing aids, defining them as any wearable instrument or device for compensating for hearing loss.
The bill has picked up 20 co-sponsors but will surely need more to for this bill to move forward. To do that, members of the US House of Representatives need to hear from you. They need to know how this bill would change your life, and the lives of so many others.
Medicaid Coverage for Hearing Aids State by State
Compiled on the Medicaid Regulations page is the coverage of hearing aids and related services made available to eligible Medicaid recipients in each state. Since the states often make revisions to the scope of their Medicaid benefits, recipients are cautioned to check their state’s Medicaid offices for possible updated coverage.