On October 22, 2019, the House Ways and Means Committee passed the Medicare Hearing Act of 2019 (H.R. 4618), as amended [PDF]. The bill, originally introduced by U.S. Representatives Lucy McBath (D-GA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), adds new hearing benefits, including hearing aids, for Medicare beneficiaries with severe to profound hearing loss.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) worked diligently over the past two weeks to advocate for improvements to H.R. 4618, to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have meaningful access to hearing related services provided by audiologists consistent with the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act of 2019 (H.R. 4056). We are pleased to report that, with the help of H.R. 4056 Congressional sponsors and cosponsors and the House Ways and Means Committee, H.R. 4618 was amended to include a number of the provisions in H.R. 4056.
Specifically, the Medicare Hearing Act of 2019 (H.R. 4618), as amended, enables audiologists to provide both diagnostic and treatment services and reclassifies audiologists as practitioners under Medicare providing better access for seniors. The amended bill also mandates a study to examine beneficiary direct access to audiologists and gives the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services authority to allow audiologists to furnish services without requiring beneficiaries to first obtain a physician order. In light of the amendments now included in H.R. 4618, the revised bill was endorsed by ASHA, AAA, and ADA, and now awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives.
In July 2019, ASHA, AAA, and ADA collaborated in the development of the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act of 2019 (H.R. 4056). While ASHA, AAA, and ADA are pleased that the additional key provisions from H.R. 4056 were added to H.R. 4618, we will continue our efforts to expand access to hearing health care services provided by audiologists without first obtaining a physician order, an important provision of H.R. 4056 and its Senate companion (S. 2446).
We applaud Representatives Tom Rice (R-SC) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA) for introducing H.R. 4056, as well as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), for their instrumental work in securing the important accomplishment of reclassifying audiologists as practitioners and allowing audiologists to be reimbursed for the Medicare-covered services that they are licensed to provide.
ASHA, AAA, and ADA look forward to continuing our work to ensure that Medicare’s new hearing health care benefit will result in better diagnosis and treatment for those who rely on this important program.
For questions, please contact Jerry White, ASHA’s director of federal affairs, health care, at firstname.lastname@example.org.