Now Hear This: The Message to Improve Access to Hearing and Balance Health Care Services for Medicare Beneficiaries Is Received--And Well Received in Congress
Washington D.C. and Beltsville, MD — On November 14th, local audiologist, Dr. Kathy Mellott, traveled with 175 advocates and health policy experts from across the country to Capitol Hill to advocate for legislation that will improve access to hearing and balance health care services for millions of Medicare beneficiaries.
“Medicare Part B requisites for coverage have not kept pace with best practices in the provision of audiological and vestibular care, leading to delayed treatment and increased costs.” said Dr. Mellott. “These programmatic deficiencies pose public health risks for aging Americans by placing arbitrary restrictions on coverage for hearing and balance care at the time when that care is most needed.”
In a rare display of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats from the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate recently introduced the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act (H.R. 4056 and S. 2446) to better deploy audiologists within the Medicare system, to allow patients their choice of qualified Medicare-recognized provider, and to eliminate the requirement for patients to obtain a physician order prior to seeking care from an audiologist. Provisions in the bill will bring Medicare Part B policies in line with private insurers and other federal agencies and programs including the Veterans Health Administration, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, and Medicare Advantage.
“For Medicare beneficiaries, enactment of the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act cannot come soon enough.” said Dr. Mellott. “Untreated hearing and balance conditions reduce quality of life and carry tremendous societal and financial costs. H.R. 4056 and S. 2446 will make much-needed improvements to Medicare policies that will make it easier for seniors to get the help that they need, and I applaud Maryland Representatives C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and David J. Trone for agreeing to cosponsor this landmark legislation and for working to advance it through Congress.”
Ten thousand Americans turn 65 years of age and become Medicare-eligible every day in the United States and 25% of them have a disabling hearing loss. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition for adults over 65 years of age, behind arthritis and hypertension. Individuals with mild hearing loss are three times more likely to experience a fall, and falls are the leading cause of injury and death for Americans over 65 years of age.