Affordable Quality Healthcare
Universal, Affordable Health Coverage With A Cap On Out-Of-Pocket Expenses
Policy Library

Help People Hear By Ensuring Insurance Treats Hearing Aids as the Medical Devices They Are

Nearly 50 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing. For younger children, difficulty hearing is linked to poor academic performance, delayed social development, and challenges with language development. In older adults, hearing loss can lead to isolation, stress, and depression. People with untreated hearing loss are more likely to suffer injuries due to the inability to hear smoke detectors or an approaching car. Hearing aids are a proven and effective method to help people hear and reduce the negative effects of hearing loss. Yet hearing aids are expensive and too often health insurance companies refuse to cover their cost. The Hearing Enhancement Aid Reimbursement Act (HEAR Act) would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for hearing aids.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Rhode Island

Introduced in:

Ohio

In The News

“While 48 million people in the country suffer from some form of hearing loss according to the Hearing Loss Association of America, insurance providers do not consider it a vital issue unless it occurs at a young age. As you get older, your hearing deteriorates. As far as your insurance provider is concerned, it’s not worth paying to fix. If you choose to get a hearing aid, most insurance companies consider this an elective procedure — like choosing to get plastic surgery — and won’t cover it.”
“If hearing loss were officially considered a disability, it would rank as the largest disability class in the country. . . . Yet most private medical insurance doesn't cover the cost of hearing aids.”
“‘Hearing loss is a medical condition... There are very few medical conditions that the government asks you to manage totally on your own. Nobody asks you to manage your high blood pressure on your own.’”

Partners

  • Older Americans
  • Disability rights advocates
  • Deaf and hard of hearing community advocates

Opposition

  • Health insurance providers not inclined to cover this medical condition
Call us for real-time support using this library, problem-solving tips, and follow-up from our team of national experts:
The State Line
1-833-
STATES-1

FAQ

Who does this help?
Many of the nearly 50 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing would like hearing aids but struggle to pay for this vital assistive device. Alleviating the financial stress related to paying for hearing aids would help not only those directly affected, but also their families and communities.
Is this high cost to the state?
No. Hearing loss can adversely affect academic performance and the ability to perform certain job functions, meaning any minimal investment from the state to help provide hearing aids can be offset through reduced use of other state resources.
Print

Model Policy

SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the Hearing Enhancement Aid Reimbursement Act (HEAR) Act.

SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
To provide coverage for hearing aids at annually-determined minimum coverage rates per hearing aid to all individuals with documented hearing loss.

SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

(a) All individual and group health policies, contracts, and certificates, and all health maintenance organization individual and group health insurance contracts must provide for coverage for the purchase of a hearing aid for each deaf or hard of hearing ear for an individual covered under the policy, contract, or certificate in accordance with the following:
  • (i) The DEPARTMENT shall annually set and promulgate minimum coverage rates and coverage limits for adult and child hearing aids for each hard of hearing or deaf ear.
  • (ii) At a minimum, the DEPARTMENT must provide rates that would allow for 100% coverage of reasonable and customary hearing aids.
  • (iii) The DEPARTMENT shall every two years select and promulgate an approved list of audiologist and hearing aid dealers licensed in STATE for which health policies and contracts must provide coverage in accordance with this section.
  • (iv) The hearing loss for which hearing aid coverage applies in each deaf or hard of hearing ear must be documented by a physician or audiologist licensed in STATE.

(b) A covered person may choose a higher priced hearing aid and may pay the difference in cost above the minimum coverage amount without any financial or contractual penalty to the covered person or to the provider of the hearing aid.

(c) The requirements for this Act apply to all policies, contracts, and certificates executed, delivered, issued for delivery, continued or renewed in this STATE on or after the effective date of this Act. For purposes of this Act, all contracts are deemed to be renewed no later than the next yearly anniversary of the contract date.