Position Statement: Insurance Coverage and Medicare Reimbursement for Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants and Other Hearing Assistive Devices
Most group and individual health insurance plans do not cover the cost of hearing aids. As a result, several states have enacted legislative mandates for insurance coverage of hearing aids for children, although the qualifying ages vary from state to state. There is also a federal Hearing Aid Tax Credit bill under review by the House Ways & Means Committee that would provide a tax credit of $500 per device every five years for children under 18 and individuals over the age of 55.
Cochlear implants and other implantable devices are covered by most group and individual health insurance plans. However, guidelines for reimbursement set by Medicare have traditionally been lower than the actual costs of cochlear implant surgery, devices and other support services due to reporting errors and other problems with reporting costs associated with the procedure. This is problematic because the reimbursement levels set by Medicare traditionally serve as the benchmark for health insurance companies and for other federal agencies, such as the Veterans Administration. Lower reimbursement levels also affect cochlear implant centers and hospitals by creating a financial disincentive to offer or expand these services to Medicare recipients.
AG Bell Position
AG Bell supports full reimbursement of cochlear implant surgery and related services, as well as group and individual health insurance coverage and/or tax credits for hearing aids for individuals with hearing loss.
•Research studies show a direct relationship between auditory input and increased ability to develop spoken language.
•Obtaining hearing aids or other hearing assistive devices can be a financial burden for some families. Therefore, these children may have less of chance for a spoken language outcome due to financial constraints. This is particularly true for disadvantaged children, creating a situation of “haves” and “have-nots” among children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Therefore, AG Bell supports a federal mandate for group and individual health insurance coverage for hearing aids, particularly for children.
Adopted by unanimous vote by the AG Bell Board of Directors on October 19, 2008.