The “Help Extend Auditory Relief Act of 2020” recently had a bipartisan reintroduction in the United States House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-08) and U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24). If passed, the Help Extend Auditory Relief Act will amend the Social Security Act of 1935 to include Medicare coverage for hearing rehabilitation services, including a comprehensive audiology assessment to diagnose the degree of hearing loss. It would also extend Medicare Part B to cover hearing aids.
This legislation is impactful to Medicare Beneficiaries because, for many Americans, the purchase of hearing aids is the third most expensive purchase in their lives after a house and a car[i]. A typical hearing aid, without insurance coverage, retails between $1,000-$5,000, which can be difficult for the average household to afford, let alone the average person living off a fixed income. Hearing loss often goes untreated as a result of high cost, which dramatically increases Medicare program’s costs due to increases in things like falls, injuries, social isolation, depression, and reduced engagement with preventative and chronic, disease-focused services.
“Exams and hearing aids are simple ways to mitigate hearing loss, but those resources are far too costly without insurance coverage,” said Rep. Cartwright in a February 2021 press release[ii]. “This common-sense bill supported by both Democrats and Republicans will extend Medicare coverage for hearing aids devices so seniors can access these life-enhancing solutions without breaking their bank.”
Dianne Cooper, AuD, MBA, Chief of Audiology and Chief Experience Officer
The burden of hearing loss is significant in the U.S. The National Institute on Aging has found that one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss, and nearly 50% of those over 75 have difficulty hearing[iii]. For health plans that don’t currently offer their members a comprehensive hearing benefit, it’s important to recognize the prevalence of hearing loss among a senior population and the comorbidities that are associated with it. If left untreated, the comorbidities include risk of falling, feelings of depression, social isolation, etc., and it can lead to poor health outcomes, more complex clinical management, and increased health care costs.
“If the Help Extend Auditory Relief Act is passed, it would be a monumental moment for health plans and the millions of Medicare Part B beneficiaries with hearing loss. In addition, providing comprehensive and cost-effective hearing aids and service solutions can improve the social, emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of a person with a hearing impairment,” said Dianne Cooper, AuD, MBA, Chief of Audiology and Chief Experience Officer at NationsBenefits®.
The Opportunity for Health Plans: Enhancing Benefits, Include Outcomes-Focused Hearing for 2022 from NationsHearing
While some health plans will minimally introduce a hearing benefit that provides access to hearing aids, that approach doesn’t fully take advantage of the opportunity to drive growth and retention while reducing costs. Further, launching a hearing benefit that also drives quality measure improvements through interventions, combined with cost-effective hearing aids, is the best way to significantly improve health outcomes and drive member satisfaction.
Through NationsHearing®, we offer an outcomes-based approach and work collaboratively with health plans to provide their members with the right educational interventions delivered during critical intervals. Our interventions maximize quality of care by addressing hearing loss, but they synergistically improve overall health by educating members on the core comorbidities associated with hearing loss, as well as other topics such as cognitive decline, falls and accidents, communication, medication adherence, and noise exposure. This more thoughtful and comprehensive approach helps to empower members as proactive participants in maintaining good health while effectively managing their hearing loss.
We provide our health plan partners with tailored reports, created from the data collected during this member engagement lifecycle, to demonstrate the improvements in quality metrics driven by utilization and engagement with our team. The data collected can be further analyzed for year-over-year comparison of members’ health, while also reinforcing that the outcomes model improves quality of care and healthcare spending. Such data analysis is essential to identify baselines and properly measure improvement.
NationsHearing Benefit Program Features
In addition to our outcomes-based approach, our benefit program includes customizable features that can be tailored to the unique needs of health plans and members alike. Program services include:
- Annual hearing test with no out-of-pocket cost
- Access to a nationwide network of 8,000+ providers
- Hearing aids available from all major brands
- Low pricing and a 60-day, 100% money-back guarantee
- Concierge-level service by dedicated Member Experience Advisors
- Three follow-up visits
- Three-year repair warranty
- Three years of batteries included*
- One-time replacement coverage for lost, stolen, or damaged hearing aids**
- 12- and 18-month financing
To learn more about how you can partner with NationsBenefits to address hearing loss among your membership, contact us at 877-439-1564 or visit NationsBenefits.com/NationsHearing.
*Not applicable to the purchase of rechargeable hearing aid models.
**Deductibles vary by manufacturer and typically range from $175-$225.
David Meyer is a seasoned industry leader who possesses a remarkable breadth of knowledge and experience. He has over 20 years of experience in healthcare and government programs operations, quality and data science, clinical outcomes, CMS Stars and risk adjustment, and EDI and informatics.