Wednesday, 18 August 2021
Medicare Expansion for Hearing, Vision, and Dental Coverage: An Update from AAA, ADA, and ASHA
Policy recommendations to expand Medicare to include hearing, vision, and dental coverage have gained increasing support from influential members of Congress over the past few years. President Biden has also identified Medicare modernization as one of the key health care priorities for his Administration.
A legislative package to include expanded Medicare hearing services and hearing aids (as well as vision and dental services) is currently being drafted by key congressional committees for potential consideration by the full Congress in Fall 2021. This legislation may be considered under expedited budget reconciliation procedures that require a simple majority vote for passage in the U.S. Senate, potentially increasing its chances for approval.
The American Academy of Audiology (AAA), the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, and ADA are working collaboratively to educate members of Congress and their staff on the critical role of the audiologist to the success of any new hearing benefit under Medicare. Our foremost legislative priority is to ensure the provisions of the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act, or MAASA, (H.R. 1587/S. 1731) are included in any proposal.
AAA, ADA, and ASHA are concerned that simply adding hearing aid coverage of any level—without addressing meaningful access to the diagnosis and treatment services provided by audiologists—will not ensure successful utilization of the benefit by Medicare beneficiaries. The success of any Medicare modernization and expansion effort for hearing health care is predicated upon making necessary statutory updates included in MAASA to:
- classify audiologists as “practitioners”;
- reimburse audiologists for the Medicare covered services that they are licensed to provide; and
- eliminate the requirement for beneficiaries to obtain a physician order for coverage when seeking care from an audiologist.
Policymakers are grappling with determining the scope of coverage for all of the potential expanded Medicare benefits, including hearing benefits, as well as the qualifications for coverage, projected utilization, and the costs of delivering coverage in relation to available resources. AAA, ADA, and ASHA are in regular contact with policymakers to provide input and to offer clinical and technical guidance that will best inform decisions about hearing coverage, especially since regulations governing over-the-counter hearing aids are expected soon and may impact how these benefits are crafted. We have also underscored that, because hearing loss is complex, hearing care treatment services provided by an audiologist is critical.
AAA, ADA, and ASHA urge our members to express their support for MAASA by sending messages to their U.S. Senators and Representatives emphasizing the critical nature of including its provisions in any hearing benefit proposal under Medicare. Our organizations will continue to advocate for the profession of audiology and the provision of quality hearing health care for beneficiaries to support improved outcomes throughout this process and provide updates to members on key developments as warranted.