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Rep. Foley Introduces Medicare Aural Rehabilitation and Hearing Aid Act


(Rockville, MD - 2001) Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL), who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, recently introduced H.R. 2934, the Medicare Aural Rehabilitation and Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2001, that would provide Medicare coverage for aural rehabilitation services by audiologists and hearing aids for seniors with hearing loss.

Approached by Representative Foley's office regarding the Congressman's desire to pursue Medicare coverage of hearing aids, ASHA worked to help shape the legislation to ensure that aural rehabilitation and hearing aid-related services by audiologists were also included. ASHA is pleased to see this legislation come forth for the attention it will give to these issues especially the need for aural rehabilitation coverage by audiologists. And while Medicare involvement with hearing aids is controversial among audiologists, recent survey data indicates that the majority of audiologists are in favor of federal support for hearing aids for seniors.

'Congressman Foley has demonstrated vital leadership by addressing this important issue,' said John Bernthal, Ph.D., CCC-SLP/A, President of ASHA. 'Not since the efforts of Claude Pepper has there been a serious discussion on the need for Medicare to cover necessary services for hearing loss. With over 28 million Americans who are currently deaf or hard of hearing and the impending influx of baby boomers who will be eligible for the Medicare program by the end of this decade, our nation must begin to work through equitable coverage policies for aural rehabilitation services and hearing aids in a concerted manner by both public and private insurance payers.' [Senator Pepper (1900 1989) represented Florida in both the U.S. Senate and House where he was a champion for reform and improved benefits in the Medicare program.]

Although the budget impact of Medicare coverage of hearing aids will likely prevent the legislation from being passed by Congress in the near term, ASHA believes coverage of aural rehabilitation services is a worthy goal.

Covered services under H.R. 2934 include: a comprehensive audiologic assessment; fitting and adjustments to the hearing aids; instruction on the use of the hearing aids; and aural rehabilitation including counseling on hearing loss, speech reading and auditory training.

Currently, Medicare is specifically prohibited from paying for hearing aids by federal law. H.R. 2934 would repeal this prohibition and add hearing aids to the list of covered durable medical equipment. H.R. 2934 would provide new hearing aids every three years as needed by Medicare beneficiaries. The legislation also would allow audiologists to balance bill for devices beyond what Medicare would agree to pay. 'Many seniors and policy makers are not even aware that Medicare is specifically prohibited from covering hearing aids and rehabilitation services provided by audiologists, and it's about time that changed,' Bernthal said.

ASHA appreciates having had the opportunity to work with Congressman Foley on this important legislation and will remain vigilant throughout this discussion on behalf of audiologists and America's seniors that have hearing loss. For more information, please contact Mona Thomas via email at mthomas@asha.org or at 301-897-0156 or Mike Rick via email at mrick@asha.org or at 301-897-7351.