WASHINGTON, DC— Bipartisan Hearing Aid Tax Credit legislation (H.R. 2329 / S.1410) broke the 100 co-sponsor threshold as Congress adjourned for August recess. Reps. Gene Green (D-TX), Mary Bono (R-CA), and Robert Wittman (R-VA) are the most recent Representatives to join 99 of their House colleagues to bring the tax credit to 102 total cosponsors in the House and 11 in the Senate.
The Hearing Aid Tax Credit was introduced by Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Vern Ehlers (R-MI) to provide assistance to some of the 32 million people who need a hearing aid 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. 2329 would provide a $500 tax credit per hearing aid for children and people age 55 and older. While hearing aids can treat 95% of all hearing losses, only 22% of those who could benefit from them actually use them.
HIA’s Immediate Past Chairman, Cathy Jones, points out that that “affordability of hearing healthcare – not just the hearing aids themselves but importantly the professional testing, fitting and training that makes them perform at peak – is a concern. HIA brought together manufacturers, professionals, and the consumers who depend on our technology, and we all agreed that a tax credit for hearing aid purchases is the best way to improve access. The unity behind our legislation is one of its key strengths.”
In fact, the Hearing Aid Tax Credit is actively supported by most hearing health organizations including the American Speech Language Hearing Assn (ASHA), American Academy of Audiology (AAA), Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), Hearing Industries Association (HIA), International Hearing Society (IHS), Hearing Loss Assn of America (HLAA), and the Alexander Graham Bell Assn for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell).
Working as a coalition, the hearing health community has worked to focus Congressional attention on the importance of hearing health and the burdens associated with the lack of financial assistance for treatment. “Access to hearing technology, coupled with early identification of hearing loss, is absolutely essential for children to learn to listen and talk," said Catherine Murphy, Director of Communications for AG Bell. "Parents of children with hearing loss shouldn't have to sacrifice other essentials in order to give their children access to hearing devices they desperately need. We thank those members of Congress who have supported this important issue."
In addition to coalition efforts on Capitol Hill, local AG Bell and HLAA chapters have hosted events for Representatives in their districts to demonstrate the importance of this legislation to voters. In addition, more than 15,000 letters have been sent to Congress in 2008 alone by people visiting www.hearingaidtaxcredit.org. Brenda Battat, executive director of HLAA, notes that she is “delighted that HLAA members have played a key role in reaching 100 co-sponsors. They have hosted joint events in California, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas for Representatives who are supportive of financial assistance for people who need hearing aids. Many other HLAA members have written letters and paid visits to their representatives which have paid off in gaining such strong Congressional support.”
James C. Ogurek, BC-HIS, President of the International Hearing Society, saluted the achievement of this milestone. "Attaining over 100 cosponsors to the Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act is tangible evidence that lawmakers are increasingly recognizing the importance of improving access to the benefits of amplification for their hearing-impaired constituents. IHS is pleased to be working jointly with providers, patients, and manufacturers in support of this legislation." The participation of IHS member hearing health professionals has been instrumental to the success of the Congressional events in various states.
While HIA is especially proud of surpassing the 100 cosponsor mark, its efforts will continue this year and the next when healthcare is likely to be a major issue for whomever wins the White House and controls Congress. Jerry Ruzicka, HIA Chairman, notes that “the hearing aid tax credit is HIA’s top legislative priority, and we are gratified that so many Representatives agree that the lack of financial assistance for hearing aid purchase is a major societal problem. Our legislation puts the financial assistance in the hands of those who need it most – children and seniors – and we will continue to work aggressively for its passage.”
HIA, headquartered in Washington, DC, is the national trade association of manufacturers of hearing aids, implantable hearing devices, assistive listening devices, component parts and power sources for amplification devices.