House unanimously passes Handy’s bill to increase access to hearing aids

Bill tackles absence of hearing coverage for adult Mainers

May 24, 2017

Rep. Handy

AUGUSTA – More Mainers would be able to purchase hearing aids through their insurance under a proposal from Rep. Jim Handy, D-Lewiston. Under the amended bill, eligible patients would be covered for up to $6,000 for a pair of the devices starting in January 2019.

“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.”

Hearing loss affects approximately 20 percent of American adults. Because it’s so common, it’s long been thought to be a normal part of the aging process. But studies from Johns Hopkins University by Dr. Frank R. Lin have found links between hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia. Further, hearing loss can bring on the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and death. 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.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that approximately 65,000 Mainers suffer from some degree of hearing loss. While hearing aids may be covered by insurance for some, most people with hearing loss must cover the cost out of pocket. According to data compiled by Gallaudet University through the American Community Survey, West Virginia has the largest percentage of adults with hearing loss, followed by Alaska and then Maine, tied with four other states.

LD 192, “An Act To Require Insurance Coverage for Hearing Aids,” faces further votes in the House and Senate, as well as review by the Appropriations Committee before it becomes law.

Contact:

Lindsay Crete [Handy], cell 231-1442