A new law took effect in Maine on January 1, 2020, that will have far-reaching effects for hearing practices, hearing aid professionals, and their patients. The new law requires private insurers, as well as the state’s Medicaid program, MaineCare, to cover the cost of hearing aids.
Of course, this new law comes with limitations regarding the amount and frequency of coverage for hearing aids. According to this law, private insurers and MaineCare are required to cover the cost of hearing aids up to $3,000 every three years. In addition, policyholders with deductibles greater than $3,000 that have not met the deductibles at the time of purchase may be responsible for the entire cost of the hearing aid.
Maine is the fifth state in the United States to require private health insurers to cover hearing aids. Before Maine, the states of Arkansas, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island required hearing aid coverage for both adults and children. According to a report by the state’s Bureau of Insurance in 2014, as many as 173,000 Maine residents have some level of hearing impairment. This new law could mean that more of these people with hearing impairment seek hearing aids.
It is an unfortunate fact that many people go without hearing aids due to the cost. In states where hearing aid coverage is not required, most insurance plans do not cover hearing aid costs. When they do cover hearing aids, it is usually only a small amount like $1,000. With many hearing aids costs as much as $4,000 per ear, the coverage amount is simply insufficient.
Supporters of the new law hope that the knowledge that their insurance will cover at least a significant portion of the cost of hearing aids will push people with hearing loss to seek treatment. Early treatment is important for those with hearing loss, as untreated hearing loss is linked to serious health conditions like depression, falls, anxiety, and cognitive decline. People with untreated hearing loss are also more likely to suffer social withdrawal and isolation, as well as loneliness.
In addition, people who begin wearing hearing aids earlier become more used to the devices and are more likely to continue using them in the future. Hearing aid usage can lead to greater communication, increased involvement and engagement with the community, and improved quality of life.
For many people who are uncertain whether they are experiencing hearing loss, the new law provides an extra reason to have their hearing evaluated. These people will be able to feel confident that if they are indeed experiencing hearing loss and need hearing aids, their insurance will cover the cost up to $3,000 per ear. This will likely encourage many people who have been putting off their hearing screenings to set up the appointments they need to receive the high-quality care they deserve.