Hearing loss is a condition that affects an estimated 38 million Americans, and with an aging population, that number is only expected to grow in the coming years. With so many people now diagnosed with or reporting some level of hearing loss, researchers and government representatives alike are standing up and taking notice. The most recent example of this is the Audiology Patient Choice Act.
Hearing Healthcare In America
In June of 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report called Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability. In this report, the expert committee outlined the results of their extensive study on accessibility and affordability of hearing healthcare for adults in the United States. Included in this report were many recommendations, including:
- Improve population-based information on hearing loss and hearing healthcare
- Develop and promote measures to assess and improve quality of hearing healthcare services
- Empower consumers and patients in their use of hearing healthcare
- Improve access to hearing healthcare for underserved and vulnerable populations
- Promote hearing healthcare in wellness and medical visits for those with concerns about their hearing
This report and its recommendations have become a driving force behind much of the policy now being proposed, including the Audiology Patient Choice Act.
What Is The Audiology Patient Choice Act?
The Audiology Patient Choice Act was introduced in March 2018 by United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The bipartisan bill was created to ensure “seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have access to a full range of hearing and balance health care services provided by licensed audiologists.” You may remember that Senator Warren was also behind legislation for Over-the-Counter hearing aids.
Policy-makers, concerned by the growing number of Americans affected by hearing loss and the concern over lack of treatment for those with hearing impairment, decided to take matters into their own hands. While Medicare currently covers several hearing-related services, a web of restrictions and lack of coverage for services provided by certain hearing healthcare providers can make the process daunting. The Audiology Patient Choice Act aims to minimize these barriers to essential hearing healthcare provided by qualified practitioners.
“The bill includes provisions that would implement the National Academies’ recommendation to allow audiologists to receive Medicare reimbursement for auditory rehabilitation services. The bill would also ensure that Medicare’s treatment of audiologists is consistent with the classification of other health care providers such as dentists, podiatrists, chiropractors, and optometrists.”
The Bill Bottom Line
This easier access to hearing healthcare can make all the difference for those affected by hearing loss. The earlier a diagnosis can be made and a treatment plan put in place, the better hearing loss can be managed and related health concerns avoided. This isn’t the only legislation that has been proposed in recent years with hearing health in mind, either. There is no doubt that policy-makers are keeping this issue on the top of their minds as they look for ways to make hearing healthcare a more integral and affordable part of overall healthcare.
If you have questions about hearing loss or insurance coverage for hearing healthcare, schedule an appointment with our office to discuss your options.