Insurance committee hears measure increasing access to hearing aids

Rep. Handy's bill tackles absence of hearing coverage for adult Mainers

February 21, 2019

Rep. Jim Handy

AUGUSTA - More Mainers would be able to purchase hearing aids through their insurance under a proposal from Rep. Jim Handy, D-Lewiston.

"Hearing loss can have a profoundly negative impact on so many aspects of a person's life," said Handy. "Improving access to hearing aids would improve the social, family and work life of thousands of Mainers."

While hearing aids may be covered by insurance for some, most people with hearing loss must cover the cost out of pocket. Under LD 38, eligible patients would have at least $3,000 per hearing aid covered by their insurance plans.

Hearing loss affects approximately 20 percent of American adults. Studies from Johns Hopkins University by Dr. Frank R. Lin have found links between hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia. This new research suggests that measures as simple as increasing access to hearing aids could have a huge influence on healthy brain function.

"Most people who suffer from hearing loss don't have the resources to pay for hearing aids out of pocket. This should be a covered medical expense," said Handy. "This is also a workforce development matter. As we struggle to find employees to fill many positions, there are those with hearing impairments that are ready and willing to work."

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that approximately 65,000 Mainers suffer from some degree of hearing loss. According to data compiled by Gallaudet University through the American Community Survey, West Virginia has the largest percentage of hearing loss followed by Alaska and then Maine, tied with four other states.

The Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee will schedule a work session on the bill in the coming days.

Handy sponsored similar legislation during the 128th Legislature. That bill earned approval from the Insurance and Financial Services Committee and was passed by both the House and Senate. Lawmakers were unable to override a veto by the governor.

Handy is serving his seventh non-consecutive term in the Maine House and previously served Lewiston in the Maine Senate. He is a member of the Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee.

Contact:

Katie Walsh [Handy], 287-1436, c .776-2122