President Biden has forwarded a new domestic spending bill which would include hearing benefits to the traditional Medicare programs, and if the proposal is passed, it would take effect in 2023. Here is what you can expect from that new Medicare package if it gets approved by Congress.
The legislation which was recently proposed favors adding hearing coverage to traditional Medicare, and this coverage would include services for hearing assessment, management of hearing loss, and treatments which are associated with hearing loss. Currently there are about 36 million seniors enrolled in the traditional Medicare program, and 27 million are enrolled in some kind of Medicare Advantage plan which does offer hearing services.
The Medicare Advantage plan is not part of the traditional Medicare package, and costs an extra premium to enroll. The proposed new benefits will cover the cost of some hearing aids for individuals who have been diagnosed with at least moderately severe hearing loss. Any senior enrolled in traditional Medicare would be eligible to get a new hearing aid every five years. It will be necessary to obtain a written order from a physician, hearing aid professional, audiologist, or other clinician to verify that the hearing aid is necessary.
The reason these new benefits are being proposed in the first place is that a significant body of research has clearly demonstrated that hearing loss can degrade a senior’s quality of life. This in turn leads to isolation, loneliness, depression, and communication disorders. According to the CDC, almost 33% of people over age 65 have difficulty with their hearing, even if they wear a hearing aid.
It is fairly well known that of all the seniors who are eligible for hearing aids, only 30% of these people have actually made use of them. This makes it clear that a great number of people could potentially be helped by the new legislation, and a great many more people would improve their quality of life.
It seems very clear that the number of Americans who will be helped by this new legislation will number in the millions. The National Institute of Health says that approximately one third of all Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have some degree of hearing loss, and among people over the age of 75, almost 50% have difficulty hearing. While a significant number of seniors are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans which do offer dental, vision, and hearing benefits, a great many more people who are not enrolled in those Advantage plans would now be able to benefit.
Seniors who are unable to afford the extra premiums required for enrolling in Medicare Advantage plans would be the biggest beneficiaries, because they could now obtain hearing benefits from traditional Medicare. If the program goes into effect as expected in 2023, it’s safe to say that a great many older Americans would be able to improve their quality of life because they’ll be able to enjoy better hearing.