Health care is expected to remain a priority for the 117th Congress (2021-2022). New legislation is coming that we hope will include a provision for hearing health care under Medicare. HLAA has been meeting with members of Congress and key committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate, encouraging them to vote YES! to expand Medicare to include hearing aids and services. That would mean for the first time, seniors who rely on Medicare to pay their medical bills would also be able to turn to Medicare to cover the cost of hearing aids and related services.
Action Alert! Congress Needs to Hear from You. There is no specific bill number at this time, but we will keep you updated when that happens. Go to the Action Alert to find out how you can help push for Medicare to cover hearing aids for seniors.
While H.R. 3 passed the House of Representatives on December 12, 2019, by a bipartisan vote of 230-192, it was not considered by the Senate. Introduced by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), H.R. 3 was the priority health care bill from the House in the 116th Congress, to lower prescription drug prices and expand Medicare to include hearing, dental, and vision benefits. Specific to coverage for hearing care and severe to profound hearing loss, H.R. 3 included hearing aids as prosthetic devices and addressed application of the competitive acquisition process. This legislation also set forth certain limitations, such as covering hearing aids not more than once during a 5-year period, only for hearing aids that are not over-the-counter hearing aids, and only by written order of a physician or audiologist.
HLAA is advocating for amended language to H.R. 3, among those are two important points for consumers: hearing aids and services should be provided by audiologists and hearing aid specialists who are licensed in their states to dispense hearing aids. Coverage should be for people with moderately-severe to profound hearing loss. Keep in mind that cochlear implants are already reimbursed by Medicare. Given the high cost of coverage for hearing, vision and dental, people with mild to moderate hearing loss will likely be recommended to seek an over-the-counter product, not reimbursed by Medicare.
Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
On July 9, 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to consider issuing proposed rules within 120 days for allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter. These devices will be for adults only with mild to moderate hearing loss. HLAA applauds the Biden Administration for taking action on this important matter.
On August 19, 2021, we saw movement on the proposed rules for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. The regulations went from the FDA to the Office of Management and Budget. It looks promising that the proposed rules could be published in the Federal Register in November 2021. There will be a comment period and the FDA might even hold public hearings. All these comments will be taken into consideration before the final rules are published. If everything stays on schedule, the earliest the over-the-counter market would be official is August 2022.
- Action Alert: Medicare Coverage of Hearing Aids–Congress Needs to Hear from You!
- Medicare expansion of hearing aids and over-the-counter hearing aids explained by HLAA Executive Director Barbara Kelley (Hearing Life magazine, Fall 2021)
- Medicare Doesn’t Cover Hearing, Vision and Dental Services. Could Congress Change That?
- Medicare Hearing Policy: A Path Forward, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Devices – Hearing Loss Association of America
- Working Together to Demystify Confusion
- OTC Hearing Aid Executive Order: Five Ways It Could Impact You!
- Do You Believe Everything You Read on the Internet or See on TV?
- Rules are Long Overdue
- President Biden Directs HHS to Consider Issuing Proposed Rules within 120 Days for Allowing Hearing Aids to be Sold Over the Counter
Hearing Aids: Over-the-Counter, Direct-to-Consumer and Connectivity, an HLAA Virtual Convention 2021 workshop with Thomas Powers, Ph.D.
- Tips for Buying Hearing Aids
- Understanding the Cost of Hearing Aids
- Are There “FDA Registered” or “FDA Certified” Medical Devices? How Do I Know What is FDA Approved? From the FDA website