Hearing Loss Association of America and 17 other national and local organizations sent a strong message to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius urging inclusion of hearing health care under the Affordable Care Act. Our letter was sent in response to the bulletin on Essential Health Care Benefits that was open to the public for comments. Spearheaded by the Hearing Access Program in New York, HLAA was eager to support the effort that could result in more people getting access to affordable hearing aids and hearing health services.
Hearing Loss Association of America supports the Medicare Hearing Health Care Enhancement Act of 2011 (HR 2140). This legislation would allow Medicare beneficiaries the option of going directly to a qualified audiologist for hearing and balance diagnostic tests. Currently, Medicare requires that beneficiaries with hearing loss or balance disorders obtain a physician referral before seeing an audiologist.
In our June 24, 2011 blog, we mentioned that HLA-Georgia members Cathy Fletcher, Jeff Bonnell, and Anne Taylor took advantage of the HLAA Convention in DC to visit their congressional representatives’ offices on Capitol Hill. During those visits, our advocates spoke about why people with hearing loss need the kind of financial support toward the purchase of hearing aids that the hearing aid tax credit legislation, HR 1479, would provide. We are thrilled to report their visits produced results: Representative Hank Johnson (4th District, GA) has agreed to co-sponsor the tax credit bill. Kudos to Georgia advocates Cathy, Jeff, and Ann!
Visiting the DC area for HLAA Convention 2011 afforded members of Hearing Loss Association of Texas an opportunity to visit Capitol Hill. Lois Johnson, Teri Wathen and Ray Wathen met with AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) and HIA (Hearing Industries Association) representatives for the presentation of a plaque to Representative Pete Olson (R-TX). The plaque commemorated an event held to thank Rep. Olson for his support of the hearing aid tax credit. The event, which attracted 130 Texas tax credit supporters, was held in Sugar Land, Texas, in August 2010. Rep. Olson emphasized the importance of local efforts nationwide in support of the bill, and thanked the volunteers for their dedication to a good cause. He also emphasized that he will continue to champion the bill in the House on behalf of everyone with hearing loss, especially the folks back home.
WASHINGTON, DC, May 5, 2011 — Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) reintroduced the bipartisan Hearing Aid Tax Credit (S. 905) with 8 original co-sponsors on May 5, 2011. The bill is unchanged from legislation in the 111th Congress. In the House, Reps Tom Latham (R-IA) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) have already reintroduced H.R. 1479 with the support of 36 Representatives.
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.
Class I exemption dropped in final negotiations
Over the last few months, Congress has worked on health care reform. At this writing, it’s not clear what will happen with Health Care Reform. However, one possibility for change was to tax manufacturers of what some medical devices, including hearing aids. HLAA signed onto a letter dated January 18 and sent to House Speaker Pelosi, asking for an exemption of hearing aids from such a tax. Read the letter [View PDF]