Medicare and Easier Access to Hearing Healthcare
A proposed bill in Congress called the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act, or MAASA, would improve access to hearing healthcare for Medicare patients. Your voice matters, and together, we can make hearing and balance care more available to all.
If you have been in our office in the past year, you may have seen the postcards sitting on the counter by our checkout window. We may have asked if you would like to sign it and have us send it in. You may even be a patient on Medicare, and you may have been surprised to find that you would need a referral from your physician to be seen, and without it you may be facing an out of pocket expense for your hearing test - with no coverage from Medicare.
MAASA builds on the Audiology Patient Choice Act - the postcards you may have noticed or signed lent your name and support to this. This groundbreaking bipartisan legislation in Congress could make it easier for community members to access the quality of healthcare they need, and you can help.
Why Is This Important?
An estimated one-third of adults over age 65 live with disabling hearing loss, per the World Health Organization, yet only a fraction of those who could benefit from solutions such as hearing aids actually use them.
Lack of access probably plays a role in some of these cases. The frustration of having to jump through hoops to get the help needed to treat this issue can cause some patients to just give up. We certainly don't want that for any of our patients, the members of our community, or for anyone, anywhere. MAASA may open needed hearing and balance evaluation and treatment to more people nationwide, helping patients improve their overall wellness and quality of life.
The proposal involves two identical bills in the House and Senate - H.R. 4056 and S. 2446, respectively. In a joint statement from Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren's office, and Republican Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) noted, "Seniors who suffer from hearing conditions shouldn't have to jump through hoops to see their preferred audiologist. [MAASA] cuts through the red tape to help Medicare patients access quality, affordable care."
What Are The Details?
Specifically, the proposed law:
- Facilitates direct access for audiology services, eliminating the requirement for physician referrals and orders.
-Allows the audiologist to be paid for all services - including treatment - rather than just diagnostics.
-Changes the status of audiologists within Medicare from "supplier" to "practioner".
Why Does it Matter?
Typically, anyone can seek an audiologist's care without a physician order, but such an order is required for Medicare Part B participants. This creates a potential barrier for people over 65 and older who need professional hearing and balance help.
If enacted, the legislation would remove this hurdle, empowering patients with more choice in finding and selecting a qualified, licensed professional for Medicare-covered audiology services. Medicare patients would be able to walk through our doors just as their privately insured peers - and those with Medicare Advantage - can.
How Can I Help?
You can help widen access to hearing care for yourself and your loved ones by supporting this important legislation. The Academy of Doctors of Audiology's letter campaign makes it quick and easy to make your voice heard with just a few clicks on your keyboard. Please join us in this critical effort today!