Legislature unanimously funds Handy's bill to increase access to hearing aids

Bill tackles absence of hearing coverage for adult Mainers

June 21, 2018

Rep. Jim Handy

AUGUSTA - The Legislature unanimously enacted Rep. Jim Handy's proposal Thursday to help more Mainers purchase hearing aids through their health insurance. 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 money to pay for hearing aids. 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, which is tied with four other states.

LD 192, "An Act To Require Insurance Coverage for Hearing Aids," will now be sent to Governor LePage. He will have 10 days to sign the bill into law or veto it.

Contact:

Amy Sylvester [Handy], 287-1430, c. 592-8685