Seniors with hearing loss either pay for them (at $6000 or more for a pair), buy a cheap substitute (a PSAP -- personal sound amplifying program), or quietly go deaf.
And I do mean quietly. Most older people with untreated hearing loss simply retreat from active life, because it's not that enjoyable when you can't hear. They isolate themselves, which is a strong risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. They're at a greater risk for falls, because hearing loss is associated with dizziness. If they're still in the workplace, they probably give up and go on unemployment. None of these things are good for their health, or for our country's economy.
Now Medicare is proposing to withdraw coverage for a kind of hearing aid that is surgically implanted. The Bone Anchored Hearing Aid, or Baha. No one would go this route unless they were seriously hearing impaired, but Medicare doesn't seem to think this is reason enough to cover them.
What's really interesting is to read the relevant passage in the CMS proposal. Medicare won't even save a significant amount of money on this!
Here's the passage:
c. Proposed clarification of the statutory
Medicare hearing aid coverage
exclusion stipulated at section
1862(a)(7) of the Act
This proposed rule proposes to clarify
the scope of the Medicare coverage
exclusion for hearing aids and withdraw
coverage of bone anchored hearing aids.
This proposal would not have a
significant fiscal impact on the
Medicare program, because the
Medicare program expenditures for
bone anchored hearing aids during the
period CY2005 through CY 2013 are less
than $9,000,000. This proposed rule, if
finalized, would provide further
guidance about coverage of DME with
regard to the statutory hearing aid
exclusion. The proposed rule, if
finalized, would leave unchanged
coverage of cochlear implants and brain stem implants.