House Passes Bill for Medicare Coverage of Hearing Aids

House Passes Bill for Medicare Coverage of Hearing Aids

The House of Representatives voted last week to expand Medicare to cover hearing aids and related hearing health care services. By a vote of 230 to 192, the House approved HR 3, a bill that allows the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices and uses the savings from lower drug prices to cover the costs of hearing, dental and vision health services.

While the House action is a significant step forward, much work remains to be done before Medicare coverage of hearing aids becomes a reality. HR 3 now goes to the Senate where there is opposition to negotiating drug prices. Many senators, and the Trump administration, are exploring other ways to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Whether these alternatives will also include hearing-aid coverage under Medicare remains to be seen. 

Prospects for final action on HR 3 remain uncertain, but the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)  considered the vote a milestone achievement on an issue that has been a top HLAA priority for many years. HLAA worked closely with members of Congress this year to include the language in the prescription drug negotiation bill. As the issue moves forward, HLAA staff will continue working with Congress, Medicare experts and other hearing health care organizations.

When Congress created Medicare in 1965, it expressly excluded hearing aids. More than 50 years later, HLAA is looking to correct that oversight.

 

Editor’s note: Business as usual in today’s highly polarized politics, the House vote was split tightly on political-party lines. The bill seems likely to be stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate until after November’s election.