Does Medicare pay for hearing aids?

The office has been buzzing with news about proposed new legislation that could be revolutionary for individuals on Medicare who struggle with hearing loss. Today, there are no hearing aid benefits available to the nearly 36 million adults on Medicare. Dr. Mandy recently spoke on this in a short video here. In this article, we wanted to create a helpful resource for people interested in following the legislation and the current state of Medicare and hearing services.

February 22, 2022

Medicare and hearing services

Traditional Medicare, known as Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, currently cover 0% of hearing aids, hearing exams, or any other hearing services. However, this may be subject to change in 2023.

One of the Biden Administration’s goals is to better fund healthcare for United States citizens. Recent legislation, known as the Build Back Better Act, was brought before the House Committee on September 27, 2021, with hopes to add coverage for hearing services, along with other medical funding, to Medicare beginning in 2023.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a health insurance program from the federal government, primarily for senior citizens 65 or older and certain younger individuals with disabilities. Sixty million people in America use Medicare as their form of health insurance. However, traditional Medicare (Part A and Part B) does not cover all health expenses such as dental, vision, or hearing services.

THERE ARE FOUR TYPES OF MEDICARE:

  1. Medicare Part A is hospital insurance, covering in-patient care in a hospital or nursing facility, along with home health and hospice care.
  2. Medicare Part B is medical insurance covering all medically necessary services and doctor visits.
  3. Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is a type of private insurance. It includes all of Medicare Part A and Part B and selective dental, vision, and hearing services.
  4. Medicare Part D is also a Medicare Advantage plan. It includes all Medicare Part A and Part B and coverage for prescription drugs.

What will it cover?

The American Academy of Audiology (AAA), Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) have been working with Congress to make recommendations for the bill in regards to providing care for seniors with hearing loss. These revisions are being made because it has been brought to the attention of the government that there is a gap in the current Medicare plans for its elderly citizens.

The current version of the Build Back Better Act proposes adding additional health coverage to Medicare patients that include all hearing services. These services would be available to any Medicare patient that is “diagnosed with moderately severe, severe, or profound hearing loss” and would allow all seniors to get a new set of hearing aids every five years. The bill would be revolutionary to senior citizens in our country.

Why is coverage necessary?

The average cost of hearing aids is $4,600 per pair, with some ranging up to $8,000 per pair. This cost is a heavy burden for many older people in the United States.

A study by the CDC shows that one in three people over the age of 65 have dramatic hearing loss, and the same study shows that only 30% of people over 70 have used a hearing aid. Hearing loss can significantly impact the quality of life that these seniors experience. When the ability to hear becomes difficult or is lost, communication decreases, often resulting in feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

Currently, Medicare Advantage patients have some hearing coverage but still struggle to afford care. Traditional Medicare patients have to pay for all hearing services entirely out-of-pocket, which is not even an option for many. If this bill is passed, it could benefit millions of people with hearing loss and would be a major victory for audiologists everywhere.

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