Only Medicare can answer that question but the theories have been along 3 different lines:
Because of an avalanche of research showing the negative consequences of untreated hearing loss, and the enormous health benefits and improvements that come from hearing improvement, I predict that in 10-12 years Medicare will be covering hearing aids. (use your best JFK voice when reading that last sentence :) ).
As everyone else has pointed out it is a cost issue. Too many people need help and lets face it Medicare is having trouble supplying enough money for the retired as it is. However, insurance companies are starting to see the importance for covering hearing aids. Call your insurance company and they will send you to the specialist that works with their network. Your supplement will be the one who may provide you with help on hearing instruments.
Medicare provides so little in the way of dental, vision and hearing care. Unfortunately, this is the way Medicare was set up and offering hearing aids as a benefit would make premiums unaffordable. What is not realized is the high cost of untreated hearing loss!
Medicare will pay for your initial hearing evaluation, any evaluation that is medically necessary and a variety of implants.
Good question! While Medicare does not cover hearing aids, providers can bill Medicare for a hearing evaluation once a year, provided the patient submits a referral for the test from his or her primary care physician, and provided that referral only refers for testing to monitor hearing. Anything referring to hearing aids or treatment will incur a denial of payment.
Currently, new legislation in many states does provide coverage for hearing aids through Medicaid, but not Medicare. If you are a Medicaid recipient, you will need to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for hearing aids. It's best to reach out to a provider who accepts Medicaid to determine eligibility.
When medicare was first put into place in the United States, hearing aid technology was in its infancy. The technology was limited mostly to those with an extreme loss and the sound quality was not the best, not as natural, no where close to what it is today. Therefore, hearing aids were not considered a good solution for the aging populace to be included in the coverage. This traditional approach has continued to some degree in the general medical field. And then there is the added cost of including coverage for the millions who quality for medicare.
Medicare, and many insurance programs don't cover hearing aids because they are difficult to cover. Hearing is very subjective. So from an insurer's standpoint, how do you know if the audiologist or dispenser is fitting an appropriate hearing instrument, and how do you verify that the selected devices are providing the correct benefit? All you have to go off is their word.
Hearing is not like breaking your arm, where everybody knows that you set the break, cast the arm, and then let it heal. Or like strep, where everybody knows you take an antibiotic until its gone, and then you will most likely not have strep anymore.
Hearing care is more like therapy. It doesn't matter who the manufacturer of the gym equipment was. It is more important that the therapist knows what to do and how to coach you through the use of the equipment to help you get back to the best you can be, which is subjective. In the case of hearing technology, should Medicare cover the very BEST devices? Even if your life only consists of watching TV and reading the newspaper? Or should Medicare cover just basic devices, and then let you pay for optional upgrades? If that's the case, you can get basic devices out there for as low as $700. But if you are unhappy with those, are you going to badmouth and complain about Medicare only covering the basics?
As a hearing care provider, I totally get why it is hard for insurance companies (Medicare included) to figure out exactly how to cover hearing aids. They are not a simple, one-size-fits-all treatment.
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