Sample Letter to the Editor
Support the Medicare Hearing Health Care Enhancement Act
Don’t Seniors Deserve the Same Benefit as Members of Congress?
As an audiologist, caring for the needs of my patients with hearing and balance problems has given me a valuable perspective on the state of health care in the United States, especially the federal Medicare program serving our nation’s seniors.
Approximately 30 million Americans experience some degree of hearing loss and that number is expected to increase to 78 million Americans by 2030. Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults, with approximately 33 percent of Americans aged 60 and over and 40-50 percent of those aged 75 and older with hearing loss. Research has shown that hearing loss is a major barrier to participating in society, both economically and socially. Among senior citizens, if left untreated, hearing loss can result in isolation and depression. Despite these statistics, Medicare beneficiaries are unable to directly access the services of an audiologist for vital hearing and balance health care under the federal Medicare program.
This policy instituted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is inconsistent with other federal health care policy. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has had a policy in place for over 15 years that allows veterans to directly access audiologists. The VA has reported that this policy provides “high-quality, efficient, and cost-effective hearing care.” The federal Office of Personnel Management allows federal employees and members of Congress to directly access audiologists through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Moreover, virtually all private health insurance plans allow direct access to audiology services.
To address this issue, federal lawmakers in Congress have introduced legislation (H.R. 1665/S. 2352—Medicare Hearing Health Care Enhancement Act) that would allow Medicare beneficiaries to directly access audiology services to get help in addressing their hearing and balance health care needs.
While members of Congress debate funding quality and affordable health care under the Medicare program, isn’t it time that they work to bring parity to federal health care policy by allowing seniors the same benefit that is afforded to them and their staff?