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Hearing Aid Tax Credit: HIA Engaging Congress

Washington, DC, March 4, 2010 – Corporate CEOs and professional organization leaders of the hearing healthcare industry met February 25 and 26 at the annual meeting of the Hearing Industries Association (HIA).

Hearing Industry Association logoOpening the two-day session, HIA Chairman Jerry Ruzicka, Starkey, observed that HIA’s long-term, dedicated efforts in support of the Hearing Aid Tax Credit laid the essential groundwork for HIA and its hearing health allies to effectively engage Congress in opposition to a proposed tax on medical devices including hearing aids. He noted that “The Representatives and Senators who champion the Hearing Aid Tax Credit are natural and eager supporters of efforts to insure that hearing aids are not taxed as part of a healthcare reform proposal that does little or nothing to expand access to hearing aids.”

Major presentations at the meeting led off with a full report on healthcare reform from Mark Rayder, Senior Policy Advisor in the Washington, DC office of Alston + Bird. Taking his audience through the process to date, Rayder confirmed to those present that hearing loss as a healthcare issue was now an established position, although what ways, if any, in which it will be addressed in healthcare reform are unknown. Jeffrey Gibbs, Principal at the FDA law firm of Hyman, Phelps, & McNamara and Special FDA Counsel to HIA, took the audience through an array of medical device issues ranging from manufacturer and healthcare provider ethics at both the state and federal levels to the recently published Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidance on testimonials, endorsements and other claims used in marketing activities and materials.

Lucille Beck, PhD, Chief of the VA’s Audiology and Speech Pathology Program, updated those assembled on the VA’s expansion of hearing aid delivery and introduced the industry to an initiative coming out of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to generate research into hearing aid accessibility and affordability. She presented the first three requests for proposals emerging from the initiative and urged the industry to engage in the effort. The program was rounded out by HIA’s annual presentation of Better Hearing Institute (BHI) initiatives, outlined by BHI President Gordon Walker, Knowles Electronics and BHI Executive Director Sergei Kochkin, PhD.

Biennial elections were held at the meeting and Sonic Innovations Chairman and CEO Sam Westover was elected to a two-year term as HIA Chairman. In accepting the position, Westover said, “I am honored that my HIA colleagues have the confidence in me to elect me to this position. Jerry did a great job as Chairman and I am looking forward to working with the Executive Committee to carry on and leverage the momentum that HIA has gained under his leadership. I think it is imperative that we continue to push hearing health as a national agenda item. It is important that people understand that hearing loss can significantly affect an individual’s personal and professional relationships as well as negatively impact their economic situation.”

Westover has been associated with the hearing aid industry since 2002 as a director, then Chairman and CEO of Sonic. Westover has been in the healthcare industry most of his career, having been President and CEO of CIGNA Dental and President of CIGNA HealthCare’s Small Business Segment as well as the founding Chief Financial Officer of WellPoint, the largest health insurer in the U.S. He also served as Special Assistant to the Governor of Utah during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

Newly-elected officers joining him on the HIA Executive Committee are HIA Vice Chair Todd Murray, GN Hearing Care Corporation and Secretary/Treasurer Robert Tong, ON Semiconductor; Immediate Past Chair Jerry Ruzicka, Starkey and HIA Executive Director Carole Rogin complete the executive team. Seven seats on the HIA Board were filled by the election of the following individuals: Todd Murray, GN Hearing Care Corporation; Gordon Walker, Knowles Electronics; Mike Orscheln, Phonak; Jeff Taylor, Sonion; Randy Raymond, Rayovac; Brian Kinnerk, Siemens Hearing Instruments, and Jerry Ruzicka, Starkey.

HIA, headquartered in Washington, DC, is the national trade association of hearing aid manufacturers, assistive listening devices, component parts and power sources for amplification devices.

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