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Hearing Coalition Continues Opposition to Hearing Aid Tax

Congress also considers children’s coverage mandate and payment disclosure rules

The election of Scott Brown (R-MA) to the Senate is likely to have a significant impact on health reform efforts since Republicans, voting as a group, now have the power to block key votes needed to pass the legislation. It remains uncertain, however, what direction Congress will take as a result of this change.

High level negotiations continue between the House of Representatives and Senate to determine the overall structure of healthcare reform legislation including the specifics of a proposed tax on medical devices. HIA and a coalition of hearing health groups continue to work in support of the Senate’s FDA Class I Device exclusion provision which would exempt hearing aids from the tax. The House bill exempts only items sold at “retail” from its 2.5% tax on medical devices, and that would effectively result in a tax on all hearing aids sold. As previously noted, Reps Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Dina Titus (D-NV) have contacted the Speaker directly in support of the Class I exemption, as have several senior hearing health champions from the Ways and Means Committee. Every Representative who attended a local HLAA/AG Bell event in their district that was sponsored by HIA and supported by IHS has been supportive of efforts to exempt hearing aids from the tax.

Also under consideration is a House provision that would mandate insurance coverage for hearing aids for children under 21 years old, although the form of coverage required is not specified in the legislation. The Senate bill does not include such a mandate. In addition, Congress is also working to reconcile Practitioner Payment Disclosure provisions that are included in both House and Senate health care bills. Both proposals would require disclosure of payments to physicians, and the House bill would expand the requirements to other medical groups. The medical device industry is focused on efforts to insure that any federal “sunshine” regulations preempt state reporting programs to minimize paperwork and compliance-related burdens.

HIA will continue to work with our supporters in the House and Senate as negotiations continue, and we will keep you posted. Contact Andy Bopp, abopp@bostrom.com with any questions.

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