As the Senate is poised to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and eventually come up with some sort of alternative on Tuesday, Congressman Vern Buchanan has a message for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have a vote on legislation that would make hearing aids more affordable for Americans.
The Sarasota Republican is a co-sponsor of the “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act,” a bipartisan bill that would drive down costs by allowing people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss to purchase aids without a doctor’s prescription. The legislation was included in the “FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017” which passed the House earlier this month.
“Let’s help reopen the world to seniors who struggle to hear everyday conversations with their family and friends,” Buchanan writes to McConnell. “Before the Senate adjourns for its summer recess, I urge you to pass bipartisan legislation that will make hearing aids more affordable for our nation’s seniors.”
Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley are the co-sponsors of the Senate version.
In 2016, 3.65 million hearing aids were sold in the United States. Since the average price of a hearing aid pair is $4,700, with some prices climbing as high as $8,000, according to the Huffington Post. Medicare has never paid for hearing aids; following Medicare’s lead, private insurance companies have almost always refused to pay for hearing aids as well. This means that typically the patient alone must cover the cost of a hearing aid.
Read Buchanan’s letter below:
Dear Majority Leader McConnell:
Before the Senate adjourns for its August recess, I urge you to approve House-passed legislation to make hearing aids more affordable for millions of Americans.
Nearly 50 million people have some degree of hearing loss — more than diabetes, cancer or vision impairment. The impact of hearing loss, particularly among seniors, can lead to isolation and other health problems including anxiety and depression.
Buying a hearing aid is a complex and costly process. In most cases, consumers can only buy hearing aids from audiologists or licensed hearing aid sellers after a formal medical evaluation. Because the aids are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans, out-of-pocket costs for a pair of hearing aids average $5,400.
The U.S. House recently passed legislation I co-sponsored to reduce the cost of hearing aids by allowing people with mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase devices without a doctor’s prescription. The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, which was included in the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, could lower the cost of a pair of hearing aids from several thousand dollars to only a few hundred dollars, according to The New York Times.
Moreover, in a study published earlier this month, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that hearing aids purchased over the counter perform essentially the same as prescription hearing aids.
Let’s help reopen the world to seniors and others who struggle to hear everyday conversations with their family and friends. Washington dysfunction must not get in the way of passing this life-improving proposal. I urge swift Senate approval of this important legislation.
Member of Congress