Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hearing Aid Tax Credit - progress report

WASHINGTON, DC, January 26, 2010 Hearing Aid Tax Credit legislation
in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1646) shattered previous
co-sponsorship records when Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) became the 113th
Rep. to co-sponsor the bill on January 21. Less than a year after
introduction, the legislation surpassed co-sponsorship totals achieved
in the Republican-majority 109th Congress (ending in 2006) and the
Democratic-majority 110th Congress (ending in 2008) – both of which
peaked at 112 co-sponsors at the conclusion of each full two-year
session. With the remainder of 2010 left for the 111th Congress, tax
credit supporters are hopeful that the bill will be considered as part
of any health reform proposals that emerge in the coming months or
major tax legislation that must be considered in either 2010 or 2011 to
address numerous expiring tax provisions.

The bi-partisan Hearing Aid Tax Credit was introduced by Reps. Carolyn
McCarthy (D-NY) and Vern Ehlers (R-MI) to provide assistance to some of
the 32 million people who need a hearing aid to treat their hearing
loss. Medicare expressly excludes coverage of hearing aids as do most
private insurance policies, and as a result, cost is cited as a
prohibitive factor by two thirds of the people who do not treat their
hearing loss. If enacted, H.R. 1646 would provide a $500 tax credit per
hearing aid for children and people age 55 and older. While hearing
aids can treat 95% of all hearing losses, only 22% of those who could
benefit from them actually use them. Rep. McCarthy notes that “this
bill would provide some assistance to people who need hearing aids to
reach their full potential, and it would do so in a fiscally
responsible way.”

HIA’s Chairman, Jerry Ruzicka, points out that “affordability of
hearing healthcare – not just the hearing aids themselves but
importantly the professional testing, fitting and training that makes
them perform at peak – is a concern. HIA brought together
manufacturers, professionals, and the consumers who depend on our
technology, and we all agreed that a tax credit for hearing aid
purchases is the best way to improve access. The unity behind our
legislation is one of its key strengths.”

In fact, the Hearing Aid Tax Credit is actively supported by most
hearing health organizations including the Alexander Graham Bell Assn
for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell), Academy of Doctors of
Audiology (ADA), American Academy of Audiology (AAA), American Speech
Language Hearing Assn (ASHA), Hearing Industries Association (HIA),
Hearing Loss Assn of America (HLAA) and International Hearing Society

Working as a coalition and in partnership with Congressional champions,
the hearing health community has worked to focus attention on the
importance of hearing health and the burdens associated with the lack
of financial assistance for treatment. “Access to hearing technology,
coupled with early identification of hearing loss, is absolutely
essential for children to learn to listen and talk," said Catherine
Murphy, Director of Communications & Public Affairs for AG
Bell. "Parents of children with hearing loss shouldn't have to
sacrifice other essentials in order to give their children access to
hearing devices they desperately need. We thank those members of
Congress who have supported this important issue."

In addition to coalition efforts on Capitol Hill, local AG Bell and
HLAA chapters have hosted events for Representatives in their districts
to demonstrate the importance of this legislation to voters. In
addition, more than 30,000 letters have been sent to Congress since
2008 by people visiting Brenda Battat, executive director of HLAA, notes that she is “delighted that
HLAA members have played a key role in reaching this new milestone.
They have hosted joint events in California, Maryland, Michigan,
Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin for Representatives who are
supportive of financial assistance for people who need hearing aids.
Many other HLAA members have written letters and paid visits to their
representatives which have paid off in gaining such strong
Congressional support.”

Chris Gustafson, BC-HIS, ACA, President of the International Hearing
Society, saluted the achievement of this milestone. "Reaching this new
threshold for the Hearing Aid Tax Credit is tangible evidence that
lawmakers are increasingly recognizing the importance of improving
access to the benefits of amplification for their hearing-impaired
constituents. IHS is pleased to be working jointly with providers,
patients, and manufacturers in support of this legislation." The
participation of IHS member hearing health professionals has been
instrumental to the success of the Congressional events in various
-Lise Hamlin, HLAA Public Policy and Advocacy



Frieda said...

This is a step in the right direction! There should also be some monetary assistance for the proper selection, fitting of a hearing aid, and ear molds. Most people go the Costco route and then wonder why they don't wear their hearing aids...

JoeyRes said...

This is great! We're very fortunate that in PA, medical assistance pays for 100% of all hearing aid expenses - ear molds, everything.

I should blog about this as well so that those outside my state can get involved.