Audiology Medicare Access: When Will You Be Eligible?
To even see an audiologist, you must first meet with your primary care physician. The current Medicare program only covers diagnostic services – not follow-up treatment or ongoing care. Hearing aid customization and fitting also aren’t covered under the program.
These exclusions seem like a fairly big omission given that non-congenital hearing loss disproportionately affects older Americans. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 25% of those between the ages of 65 and 75 experience some type of “disabling” hearing loss. And that number jumps to 50% among those who are 75 and older.
Why even have a Medicare program if retirees are expected to cover out-of-pocket expenses for such a common medical condition? It just seems wrong.
However, recently proposed legislation could correct some of these glaring gaps.
Hearing Healthcare Coverage under Medicare
Introduced with bipartisan support earlier this year, the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act of 2019 (H.R. 4056) is a new bill designed to extend coverage to include a wider range of “hearing healthcare” services.
According to one of the bill’s sponsors, US Representative Tom Rice (R-SC),
“Seniors who suffer from hearing conditions shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to see their preferred audiologist… [This bill] cuts through the red tape to help Medicare patients access quality, affordable care.”
One key component of this new legislation involves removing the need for doctor referrals. If you have concerns about hearing or balance, H.R. 4056 will allow you to visit any audiologist of your choosing without needing to go through a primary care physician first.
In addition, audiologists will be reclassified as “practitioners” under the Medicare program, which will allow them to provide a much wider range of partially or fully reimbursed services, exams and treatments.
When Will Medicare Audiology Access Become Official?
H.R. 4056 still has many more obstacles before passage. But it currently has the support of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) – all of whom helped co-write the legislation. So we’re hopeful that the bill will ultimately pass.
But with your support, Medicare Audiology Access could become law even sooner.
Join Julia, Kirsten and all other audiologists nationwide by sending a “letter of support” to your local legislator. It only takes 2 minutes. And the more feedback Congress receives from actual Medicare beneficiaries and loved ones, the more likely hearing healthcare will finally be covered (as it should be).
To get started, visit this free portal and follow the steps to find and contact your legislator: http://chooseaudiology.org/congressional-connect.
If and when Medicare Audiology Access passes, we’ll publish an announcement on The Hearing Solution Blog. So be sure to check in regularly for all the latest developments.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about Medicare coverage or hearing loss, schedule an appointment with our Sacramento clinic today.
Interested in learning more? Attend one of our regular hearing solution events to learn more about our unique approach to hearing loss or give us a call at 916-646-2471.Contact Us Now