Tuesday, 30 November 2021
U.S. House of Representatives Passes Build Back Better Act with Medicare Hearing Benefit
Senate to Consider Legislation in the Coming Weeks
On November 19, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amended version of the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376) that includes several hearing-related provisions that would impact Medicare patients and audiologists, if ultimately enacted. The bill includes provisions that would add coverage of treatment services provided by audiologists and would reclassify audiologists as practitioners, two of the three provisions in the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act (MAASA). However, the Build Back Better Act does not include a provision to eliminate the physician order requirement for Medicare beneficiaries as a condition of coverage of audiology services.
The bill also includes the following hearing related provisions:
- To add hearing aid dispensers as ‘qualified hearing aid professionals’ eligible to provide hearing assessment services, as allowed by state licensure, subject to any additional requirements determined by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, including those relating to educational certification or accreditation.
- Coverage of hearing aids for individuals with moderately severe to profound hearing loss in one or both ears once every five years if furnished through a written order by a physician, audiologist, or other practitioner for devices that are determined appropriate by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Exclusion of hearing aids from competitive bidding when furnished by a physician or other practitioner to their own patients as part of a professional service
ADA, the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) are advocating for further amendments to improve beneficiary access to audiology services, and to support consumer protection, transparency, competition, and patient choice. Our groups are working to provide assistance and offer these recommendations as this legislation now moves over for consideration in the Senate. We will provide further updates on these advocacy efforts as the legislative process continues to evolve.