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Reps. Cartwright, Lawler Re-Introduce Bill to Expand Medicare to Cover Hearing Benefits

Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) and Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Lawler (NY-17) re-introduced the Help Extend Auditory Relief  (HEAR) Act to expand hearing benefits for seniors on Medicare.

Approximately 15 percent of American adults (41 million) report some degree of hearing loss, according to the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). This includes nearly one-third of individuals aged 65-74 and nearly half of those over 75.

Left untreated, hearing loss can dramatically impact the health and wellbeing of older adults. Research indicates that older adults with hearing loss experience a faster decline in cognitive abilities and have a greater risk of developing dementia compared to older adults with normal hearing. Hearing loss can also increase social isolation and loneliness and has even been linked to an increased risk for falls, among seniors.

For many individuals, hearing aids offer a simple solution. They are dependable, nearly invisible, and can significantly improve quality of life. Yet for older adults on fixed incomes, hearing aids can be prohibitively expensive. This is especially true for older adults who require prescription hearing aids, which can range from $1,000 to $6,000 per pair. Despite this, traditional Medicare does not cover prescription hearing aids or related hearing services.

The Help Extend Auditory Relief (HEAR) Act would rectify this by:

·         Requiring Medicare to cover prescription hearing aids; and

·         Requiring Medicare to cover hearing rehabilitation services, including a comprehensive audiology assessment to determine if a hearing aid is appropriate, a threshold test to determine audio acuity, and various services associated with fitting, adjusting, and using hearing aids.

“Hearing loss among older Americans is common, and more serious conditions like depression and anxiety often follow if it’s not addressed. Exams and hearing aids are simple ways to mitigate hearing loss, but those resources are far too costly without insurance coverage,” said Rep. Cartwright. “This common-sense bill supported by both Democrats and Republicans will extend Medicare coverage for prescription hearing aid devices so seniors can access these life-enhancing solutions without breaking their bank.”

“I’m thrilled to be co-leading the Help Extend Auditory Relief (HEAR Act) with Representative Cartwright, which would expand Medicare access for millions of Americans, ensuring they have the ability to get the hearing aids they need and deserve,” said Congressman Lawler. “I will never stop fighting for our seniors, those who are disabled, and those who need a helping hand - we are judged by how we treat the most vulnerable in our society, and this bill goes a long way towards helping them.”

Elements of this bill were included in the landmark Lower Drug Costs Now Act, passed by the U.S. House in December 2019. The taxpayer savings generated from empowering Medicare to take on big drug companies and negotiate lower prices for Americans on Medicare and private insurance would have been partly reinvested to implement the HEAR Act’s provisions to expand Medicare Part B coverage of  hearing benefits.

This legislation is endorsed by the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services, Hearing Loss Association of AmericaCenter for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE) and the SeniorLAW Center.

“With one in five Pennsylvanians being over 65 there is growing number of seniors having hearing loss,” said Barbara Kelley, Executive Director of the Hearing Loss Association of America. “Representative Cartwright’s legislation will help people afford hearing aids to stay engaged, active and in many cases, working beyond age 65. Hearing health is part of overall health, and the cost of hearing aids can be a barrier to treatment. This bill will help reduce those barriers.”

This legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Mike Lawler (R-NY-17), Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29), Madeleine Dean (D-PA-04), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Mark Takano (D-CA-39) and Mike Thompson (D-CA-05).