Representatives Tom Latham (R-IA) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) reintroduced the bipartisan Hearing Aid Tax Credit (H.R. 1479) with 36 original co-sponsors, including four members of the House Ways and Means Committee on April 12, 2011. The bill is unchanged from legislation in the 111th Congress that attracted a record 131 co-sponsors by the end of the session. In the Senate, Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are organizing original co-sponsors as they prepare to reintroduce companion legislation in that chamber.
"Hearing loss is an impairment that threatens the health and safety of millions of Americans of all ages every day,” Rep. McCarthy said. “I’ve fought for years to combat this problem and am proud to work with my colleagues across the aisle to help make sure more of us can hear clearly."
“Most insurance plans don’t cover hearing aids, and the high costs of treatment prevent a majority of hearing impaired Americans from buying them,” Rep. Latham said. “This legislation addresses a serious problem for millions of Americans across the country in an affordable and measured way that has attracted widespread bipartisan support.”
The Hearing Aid Tax Credit would provide assistance to many of the 34 million people who need hearing aids to treat their hearing loss. Medicare expressly excludes coverage of hearing aids as do most private insurance policies, and as a result, cost is cited as a prohibitive factor by two thirds of the people who do not treat their hearing loss. If enacted, H.R. 1479 would provide a $500 tax credit per hearing aid for children and people age 55 and older. That would be a critical assist since 61% of all hearing aid purchases involve no third party payment of any kind, and only 25% of people who could benefit from hearing aids actual use them according to the latest MarkeTrak report.
The Hearing Aid Tax Credit is actively supported as a way to provide some assistance by Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) as well as the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell), Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), American Academy of Audiology (AAA), American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), American Tinnitus Association (ATA), International Hearing Society (IHS) and Hearing Industries Association (HIA).
The hearing health community has worked as a coalition to focus Congressional attention on the importance of hearing health and the burdens associated with the lack of financial assistance for treatment. In addition to coalition efforts on Capitol Hill, HIA has sponsored local AG Bell, HLAA and IHS chapters that have hosted events for Representatives and Senators in their districts to demonstrate the importance of this legislation to voters. Five local events to thank hearing champions were held in the 111th Congress including programs that attracted 180 people in the Philadelphia suburbs for Rep. Allyson Schwartz; 200 people in Henderson, NV for Rep. Dina Titus; 120 people in suburban Houston for Rep. Pete Olson; 180 people in E. Lansing, MI for Senator Debbie Stabenow and 120 people in La Crosse, WI for Rep. Ron Kind. A total of 13 constituent events have been held since the hearing coalition first started work in support of the tax credit.
In addition, this legislation has attracted dramatic grassroots attention, motivating Americans across the nation to send more than 75,000 emails and letters to their elected Members of Congress since 2008 by visiting www.hearingaidtaxcredit.org .