Home Advocacy Bill to Expand Medicare Audiology Coverage Passes House

Bill to Expand Medicare Audiology Coverage Passes House

by Jillian Kornak
written by
US Capitol

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3 (the Lower Drug Costs Now Act) yesterday, boosting ASHA’s efforts to increase Medicare beneficiaries’ access to hearing-related services provided by audiologists.

Included in this bill is Section 602, “Providing Coverage for Hearing Care under the Medicare Program” (pg. 169). Section 602 adds new hearing benefits, including hearing aids, for Medicare beneficiaries with severe to profound hearing loss.

H.R. 3 includes many of the provisions supported by ASHA and other hearing-related organizations. Specifically, Section 602 of H.R. 3 would allow audiologists to be reimbursed by Medicare for covered diagnostic and treatment services that they are licensed to provide. (Current Medicare regulations reimburse only for diagnostic services, and then only after an order from a physician.) The bill also would reclassify audiologists as practitioners under Medicare, giving seniors better access to hearing and balance care provided by audiologists.

The bill also mandates a study to examine beneficiary direct access to audiologists and clarifies that the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services has the authority to allow audiologists to provide and be reimbursed for services without  a physician order.

In October, ASHA, the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) issued a joint statement supporting the Medicare Hearing Act of 2019 (H.R. 4618). While key provisions from H.R. 4056 (the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act of 2019) were added to H.R. 4618, and subsequently included in Section 602 of H.R. 3, ASHA will continue working to build support for the audiology-related provisions of H.R. 3 and identify opportunities for their advancement in the Senate. ASHA, AAA, and ADA urge the Senate to adopt these audiology-related provisions to ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to appropriate diagnostic and treatment services provided by audiologists.

Reps. Tom Rice (R-SC) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA) originally introduced H.R. 4056, and Reps. Lucy McBath (D-GA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced the Medicare Hearing Act of 2019. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) were also instrumental in securing the inclusion of provisions in H.R. 3 that would reclassify audiologists as practitioners and allow them to be reimbursed for the Medicare-covered services that they are licensed to provide.

For more information, contact Jerry White, ASHA’s director of federal affairs, health care, at jwhite@asha.org.

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