If you are one of the millions of Americans with hearing loss, you’ve almost certainly considered buying hearing aids. Unfortunately, these devices can be costly, especially if you go the traditional route of buying from your audiologist. There are more affordable options like buying hearing aids online, but you still have to consider the price and what you can spend. Most private insurance companies do not cover hearing aids, though you can check for options like a partial reimbursement or deductible charge. The next insurance option you may think of is Medicare, a service that 62 million Americans were enrolled in in 2019. But the looming question is – are hearing aids covered by Medicare?
What Does Medicare Cover?
Medicare is a federally funded health insurance provided to Americans over the age of 65. The sections most people are familiar with are Part A, which covers hospital stays; Part B, which covers outpatient care or preventative services; and Part D, which covers prescriptions. Traditionally, most Medicare subscribers don’t pay a monthly fee for Part A, while Part B requires a monthly fee, and Part D is an additional add-on. Once you are a subscriber, you pay for services out of pocket until a deductible is met, then you pay only 20% of the cost of the service. It is possible to use Medicare in conjunction with another insurer, just be sure to check with your provider.
This can all get confusing, especially when you introduce Medicare Advantage, often called Part C. But this is the part that can be helpful to you! Some Medicare Advantage plans cover hearing, dental, and vision services, meaning they could potentially cover a portion of your hearing aid costs.
History of hearing aids and Medicare
In 1965 when Medicare was established, hearing aids were specifically excluded. However, since then, politicians have pushed to find a way for federal coverage. Here are a few of the most recent bills brought before Congress. If passed, they require approval from the Senate and the President before making their way into law.
- Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2019 – This bill aims to add hearing aids and any related expenses to Medicare coverage. It was brought before the Subcommittee on Health in March of 2019 where it awaits investigation into medical testing, diagnostic measures, and best practices regarding hearing loss.
- Medicare Hearing Act of 2019 – Similar to the last bill, this would add hearing aids to coverage with the following stipulations: only one pair covered every 5 years, cannot include over-the-counter hearing aids, and an audiologist’s referral is necessary. It was introduced to the House in October 2019 and picked up by the Committee on Energy and Commerce in January of this year.
- Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act – This all-encompassing bill includes not only an expansion in Medicare coverage for hearing aids, glasses, and dentures, but also requirements for prescription drug pricing, healthcare costs, and general public health. It passed in the House in December 2019, so it is on to the Senate.
Hopefully by now you have a better understanding of what is covered by Medicare as well as some of the exciting possibilities on the horizon.