If you suffer from hearing loss and applied for federal healthcare coverage of hearing aids and other treatment expenses, then you are familiar with two scenarios. Either you go through a grueling application process and get little to no assistance.
Or simply, your application for federal assistance is denied.
With approximately 35 million people with hearing loss in the U.S., coverage for treatment and hearing aids is limited or non-existent with health insurance programs such as Medicaid or Medicaid. Hearing aids cost an average of $1800 to $6800 per pair and ought be replaced after a certain period of time, restricting the patient’s choices to accept a large out-of-pocket bill or stop treatment altogether.
For this reason in 2007, the Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act bill was introduced at Congress to allow tax credits up to $500 per hearing aid to eligible individuals. This provision would, though not fully cover, at least help alleviate some of the financial burden placed upon these citizens. However, despite the endorsement of several healthcare organizations, the bill has yet to pass, leaving healthcare coverage for hearing aids still up in the air.
Healthcare Coverage for Hearing Aids– Insurance: Private or Federal?
In the case of Medicare, hearing aids may be covered if the hearing loss is the result of a specific injury or illness – removal of brain tumors or head injuries. In most cases, however, Medicare does not cover hearing aids or treatment expenses. Individuals with low income are eligible to request hearing aids via Medicaid. However, Medicaid’s coverage varies according to state, and it is often limited.
Veterans are eligible to receive hearing aids once they prove that their hearing loss is the result of a service-connected injury – usually with an award letter that specifies this condition. In cases of non-connected disabilities, veterans ought be enrolled in VA healthcare and receive VA medical care in order to be eligible for hearing aids.
Private health insurance companies might reimburse part of the hearing aids costs, but they will probably not pay for batteries or replacements. Coverage for hearing aids and treatment depends solely on the health care plan, but their benefits would still abide by the specifications of the aforementioned bill, if passed.
Tax Breaks for Healthcare Coverage for Hearing Aids
With regards to the specifics of the Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act bill, there are two main differences in legislation – the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill in the House (H.R. 1479) would provide a tax credit up to $500 per hearing aid, once every 5 years. It would be available to individuals age 55 and over, or those who buy hearing aids for a dependent. There is no coverage for those individuals with an income over $200,000 per year. The bill in the Senate (S. 905) would implement the $500 tax credit for all age groups.
Several House Representatives and Senators sponsor the bill, and several advocacy groups have launched support campaigns toward the passing of this bill, but they still have to raise support from the general public in order to realize their goal.
Thus, a large part of this issue is lack of awareness within the general public. As an advocate of affordable hearing aids, Audicus is committed to provide clear and updated information to all individuals, not just those affected by hearing loss, but to everyone who is interested in engaging in a healthier and better hearing lifestyle.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Consumer Reports, Open Congress, Better Hearing Institute, Medicare.com, Medicaid, VHA Directives, Audiology, Audicus