July 5, 2018
AUGUSTA - A bill by Rep. Jim Handy to help hearing-impaired Mainers purchase hearing aids was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday.
"Hearing loss can have a profoundly negative impact on so many aspects of a person's life, but most people who suffer from it don't have the resources to pay for hearing aids out-of-pocket," said Handy, D-Lewiston. "Improving access to hearing aids would improve the social, family and work life of thousands of Mainers. It should be a covered medical expense."
The measure requires insurance plans to cover a minimum of $3,000 per hearing aid for individuals with documented hearing loss beginning in January 2020. Current law only requires coverage for minors and at a lower minimum amount.
"It's a matter of just cents per policy. That's a small price to pay to hear a grandchild's voice for the first time. It's a small price to pay to help someone in their fight against Alzheimer's disease or to help more individuals participate in the workforce. There are so many positives," said Handy.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that approximately 65,000 Mainers suffer from some degree of hearing loss. Because most plans don't include hearing aid coverage for adults, people with hearing loss are often left to cover the cost out-of-pocket.
Studies show links between hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia. Research suggests that measures as simple as increasing access to hearing aids could have a huge influence on healthy brain function and overall well-being.
Hearing loss affects roughly 20 percent of American adults. 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 passed "under the hammer," or by unanimous consent, in the House. The vote was 25-7 in the Senate.
The Legislature is expected to take up the veto when it meets Monday, July 9. It requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override the governor's veto.
Amy Sylvester [Handy], 287-1430, c. 592-8685