Today, in a historic achievement, the House of Representatives this week voted to expand Medicare to cover hearing aids and related hearing health care services. By a vote of 230-192, 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 as well as 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.
While prospects for final action on HR 3 remain uncertain, this week’s House vote is a milestone achievement on an issue that has been a Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) top priority for many years. HLAA was among the earliest and most vocal supporters of Medicare coverage for hearing aids, and worked closely with key 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, other hearing health care organizations.
When Congress created Medicare in 1965, it expressly excluded hearing aids. More than 50 years later, HLAA is setting the stage to correct that oversight.