AUGUSTA, MAINE — Private insurers and Maine’s state Medicaid program must provide coverage for hearing aids, beginning on January 1, 2020. The new law could significantly benefit the estimated 173,000 people living in Maine with hearing loss. The new law will make Maine only the fifth state to require that private health insurers provide mandatory hearing aid benefits to their subscribers.
The law, which is a result a bill sponsored by Rep. James Handy in 2019, requires private health insurers and the state’s Medicaid program (MaineCare), to cover hearing aids up to $3,000 per ear, every three years.
Rep. Handy has previously spearheaded efforts to pass hearing aid benefit legislation. In 2018, a bipartisan bill was vetoed by the state’s governor.
Health Insurers and Hearing Aid Benefits
Until the most recent legislation passed, state law had required coverage for children under the age of 18 and set the insurer’s expense cap at $1,400.
Maine joins Arkansas, Illinois, New Hampshire and Rhode Island in requiring hearing aid coverage for both children and adults. However, Maine’s new law provides greater benefit amounts than other states.
“People who have hearing impairments tend to isolate themselves and that can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s, but I also heard from people who had left the workforce because of hearing loss. So to me, it is also a workforce development policy… Insurance coverage is not keeping pace with what we are discovering about the impact of hearing loss on an individual’s health”
According to a previous 2014 report, it was determined that requiring hearing aid coverage could increase insurance premiums up by as much 47 cents a month or about $5.64 a year for up to $6,000 of hearing aid coverage.
The bill passed without opposition in the Legislature and was later signed by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills in June 2019.
Source: Central Maine