July 9, 2018
AUGUSTA - The Maine House on Monday voted to sustain the governor's veto of Rep. Jim Handy's proposal to help more Mainers purchase hearing aids through their health insurance. Under the amended bill, eligible patients would have been covered for up to $6,000 for a pair of the devices starting in January 2020. The veto override failed in the House by a vote of 83-59.
"The governor and House Republicans have demonstrated how low they are willing to go for corporate interests," said Handy, D-Lewiston. "Thousands of Mainers lost today when access to hearing aids could have made a profound impact on their social, family and work lives."
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, who plans to reintroduce the bill for the next legislative session.
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," previously passed the House "under the hammer," or by unanimous consent and passed the Senate by a vote of 25-7.
Amy Sylvester [Handy], 287-1430, c. 592-8685