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Hearing Aids and Tax Credits

America's voice for people with hearing loss.
www.hearingloss.org

Introduction

A major focus of SHHH is making sure that anyone who needs hearing aids is able to get them. There are different ways to ensure access to affordable hearing aids and associated hearing health services for children and adults. SHHH is working on many ways to expand access.

Proposed Federal Legislation:

At the federal level, SHHH supports legislation that would provide a tax credit for the purchase of hearing aids. Bill H.R.3103 was introduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Ryun (R-Kansas).

H.R. 3103, Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act

Here is what it would do


  • Provide a tax credit of up to $500 per hearing aid, available once every 5 years, and would be available to individuals age 55 years and over, or for those purchasing hearing aids for a dependent.


Why do we need this special tax treatment for hearing aids?


  • While 95% of individuals with hearing loss could be successfully treated with hearing aids, only 22% (6.35 million Americans) currently use them according to the most recent ''MarkeTrak report, the largest national consumer survey on hearing loss in America.
     
  • It is estimated there are 28 million Americans with hearing loss. Included in this figure are some 1 million children under the age of 18 with diagnosed hearing loss who are not currently using hearing aids. Additionally, there are approximately around 10 million Americans age 55 and over who could benefit from this legislation.
     
  • 40% of individuals with hearing loss have incomes less than $30,000 per year. A Department of Commerce study indicated the overall family income of people with hearing loss is almost half that of the general population.
     
  • 30% of those with hearing loss cite financial constraints as a core reason they do not acquire hearing aids, according to a MarkeTrak report.
     
  • The average cost for a single hearing aid in 2002 was over $1,400, and almost 2/3 of individuals with hearing loss require two devices, increasing the average out-of- pocket expense to over $2,800.
     
  • Hearing aids are not provided by Medicare, and are not provided under the vast majority of state mandated benefits. In fact, more than 2/3rds of hearing aid purchases involve no third party payments, and are indeed paid for by the consumer, according to ''MarkeTrak.

What is the extent of the problem with hearing loss in this country?


  • Hearing loss is the most prevalent birth defect in America today, affecting 2-3 infants per 1,000 births. 1.2 million children under age 18 have hearing loss.
     
  • For adults, hearing loss usually occurs gradually, but increases dramatically with age, with 10 million older Americans experiencing age-related hearing loss.
     
  • According to Healthy People 2010, an HHS-led program to address Americas health needs, another 10 million Americans have noise-induced hearing loss. A primary objective of Healthy People 2010 is to ''increase the number of deaf or hard-of-hearing people who use adaptive devices, such as hearing aids. HR 3103 (see above) is one of the most practical and cost-effective tools government can use to accomplish this goal.

What is the cost impact of untreated hearing loss?


  • Children who do not receive early intervention for untreated hearing loss cost schools an additional $420,000 per child. Overall lifetime costs of $1 million (per hearing impaired person) in special education, lost wages, and health complications were reported in a 1995 study in the Intl. Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology.
     
  • For workers, noise induced hearing loss is the most common occupational disease and the second most self-reported occupational injury.
     
  • Studies estimate a 50-70% reduction of income for workers with untreated hearing loss as compared to their non-hearing impaired peers.
     
  • For seniors, untreated hearing loss creates additional costs to Medicare and other health programs due to loss of independence, social isolation, depression, safety issues, and quality of life issues. The Senate Special Committee on Aging, in S. Rpt. 107-74, noted: As the wave of seniors begins to experience age-related disability, our current long term care system will not be able to support this demographic shift. Hearing aids help enable seniors to retain their independence and avoid other long-term care costs.
     
  • In 1999, the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) conducted the largest known study on the effects of untreated hearing loss among adults and their families. The study quantified the negative results of untreated hearing loss and the positive impact of hearing instruments on an individuals quality of life. The NCOA found that impaired hearing results in distorted communication, greater isolation, withdrawal, reduced sensory input, depression, anger, and severely reduced overall psychological health.
     
  • Conversely, hearing aid use allowed:
    - Increased earnings power, of around 50%;
    - Enhanced emotional and mental stability and reduced anger, anxiety, depression and paranoia;
    - Improved health status and less incidence of pain;
    - Reduced social phobias and improved interpersonal relationships.

What is the potential utilization of H.R. 3103?

Currently 1.28 million Americans (all ages) purchase hearing aids each year, with many individuals requiring two devices, bringing the total number of hearing aids purchased to approximately 2 million. This number has remained essentially constant over recent years.

H.R. 3103 would likely provide potential benefit to approximately two million Americans who noted financial reasons as the primary barrier to treatment. This benefit would be available once every 5 years. Importantly , H.R. 3103 is not intended to cover the full cost of hearing aids, but will provide financial assistance to those in need, but unable to afford them, such as those approaching, or in, retirement, and families with children.

Who supports this bill?

This bipartisan initiative is supported by the Hearing Industries Association, Self-Help for Hard of Hearing People, Deafness Research Foundation, American Academy of Audiology, American Speech-Language Hearing Association, and the International Hearing Society, among others.

To find out the status of H.R. 3103 and any other proposed Federal legislation go to http://thomas.loc.gov/.

HEARING AID INSURANCE LEGISLATION (HAIL) INTRODUCED IN THE STATES

SHHH members are actively working throughout the country to get hearing aid
insurance legislation passed throughout the United States. Below is a summary of the bills introduced at the state level.

2003 Proposed State Legislation on Hearing Aids

California - S.B. 174
Would require health care service plans and health insurers to provide coverage, up to $1,000, for hearing aids to all enrollees and subscribers under 18 years of age.

Connecticut H.B. 5498/ S.B. 216
The general statutes are to be amended to require health insurers to provide coverage for hearing aids for individuals thirteen years of age and older.

Hawaii H.B. 263/ S.B. 952
Requires health insurance coverage for hearing aids and services.

Illinois H.B. 2531
Would require State Employee Group Insurance plans to cover hearing evaluations and hearing aids.

Illinois H.B. 3880
Provides greater detail than HB 2531 on what a hearing aid is.

Indiana H.B. 1451
Requires hearing aid coverage if less than 18 years of age.

Louisiana S.B. 408
Requires any new health insurance policy after January 1, 2004, and any existing policy on or before its renewal date but no later than January 1, 2005, to cover hearing aids for children under 18 years of age if the aids are fitted and dispensed by a licensed audiologist or hearing aid specialist. May limit benefits to $1,400 per ear with hearing loss over a 36 month period. The insuree is able to purchase a more expensive hearing aid and pay the difference to the hearing aid provider.

Maine S.B. 359
Requires all health insurers to cover the costs of hearing aids.

Minnesota H.B. 6A
Requires coverage of hearing aids for children 18 years of age or younger if hearing loss is congenital and not correctable by other procedures covered in the policy, e.g., surgery; coverage limited to one hearing aid per affected ear every three years; may impose co-payment, co-insurance, or other limitations only if similar limitations apply to other coverages under the plan. Effective for policies issued on or after August 1, 2003.

Missouri H.B. 282
Requires coverage of at least $1250 for each needed hearing aid for children.

New Jersey
A.B. 569/ SB 304 coverage of hearing aid(s) up to $6,000 first time purchase only
A.B. 741 must cover hearing aids
A.B. 2447 must cover hearing aids if 18 years or younger
A.B. 3387/ S.B. 2605 - must cover hearing aids up to $1,000 every two years if 15 years or younger
S.B. 864 must cover at least 85% of hearing aid cost every 4 years
S.B. 1664 - must cover hearing aids up to $1,000 every two years if 18 years or younger

New York S.B. 4003/ A.B. 1479
Proposal would cover up to $1000 per hearing aid every two years if under 16, every three years if 16 or older.

Rhode Island H.B. 5498
Would cover up to $400 per hearing aid.

Virginia S.J.R. 426
Directs the Joint Commission on Health Care to study the costs and benefits of requiring insurers to cover hearing aids for children under age 5.

Washington H.B. 2281
Would require that all insurance companies in the state that provide coverage for prostheses shall include coverage for hearing aids

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