Summer 2014

Can You Hear Me Now?

Obamacare may aid those with hearing loss

Although still in its early stages, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is poised to shake up the delivery and practice of medicine in many ways as it unfolds, and people who struggle with hearing loss may be among the beneficiaries, says Mark Parker, director of audiology at Steward St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Tufts.

“Although it is difficult to predict the future, the changes [under the ACA] could have a drastic effect on our current methods of delivering hearing health care,” he observed recently in The Hearing Journal, an online 300Wfinalcanyouhearpublication. The enrollment of more people into the health insurance system, together with expanded Medicaid coverage in a number of states, have laid the groundwork for many patients who need help to seek it out and find it at an affordable price.

Details of which health insurance exchange plans will cover hearing aids and on what terms are still up in the air. But the audiologist notes that what he saw under “Romneycare,” the Massachusetts health-care model, portends a two-way shift for the national program. “In my experience,” Parker writes, “the increase in coverage has resulted not only in people purchasing hearing aids at a lower out-of-pocket cost, but also in decreased reimbursement from some insurance providers to our clinics.”

The size, shape and form of audiology practices may need to be altered, he believes.

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