If the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) adopts a new rule proposed in July, people with certain types of hearing loss will no longer be able to secure Medicare coverage for certain types of hearing prosthetics that have been covered since 2006.
The problem stems from a proposed rule being considered by CMS that would reclassify osseointegrated hearing implants, such as the Cochlear™ Baha® Implant System, as hearing aids, not prosthetics.
The adoption of the rule could affect the quality of hearing for thousands of people in the United States who cannot use traditional hearing aids because of chronic or congenital issues, such as microtia and atresia, or who have tried traditional hearing aids and found them to be ineffective.
In contrast to traditional hearing aids, which aren't covered under Medicare, osseointegrated hearing implants are surgically implanted and use bone conduction to replace the function of the middle ear or the cochlea, whereas hearing aids require no surgical intervention and are not permanent. Over 300 published papers support the clinical effectiveness of osseointegrated hearing implants in patients with certain types of hearing loss.
"In 2006, CMS correctly classified the Baha Implant System as a prosthetic device that replaces the function of the middle ear and cochlea," said Anthony Manna, President, Cochlear Bone Anchored Solutions. "If the new proposal is accepted, the United States would be one of the very few industrialized nations not to cover this life changing technology."
To date, osseointegrated hearing implants have helped more than 100,000 people worldwide hear and enjoy a better quality of life. In the United States alone, thousands have enjoyed the profound change in hearing such prosthetics make possible.
Even so, CMS is still considering this change in policy, which could affect thousands of Americans, not only those who may be good candidates for this type of prosthetic, but current recipients who may be unable to upgrade their technology or even maintain their current system due to the loss of these important benefits.
The good news is that CMS is still considering the new rule. The hearing community is hoping that current and prospective users and their loved ones, in addition to advocates of prosthetic technologies, will voice their dissatisfaction with the proposed rule so these life-changing technologies can continue to be covered by Medicare.
Action Is Needed by August 29, 2014 to Prevent this Proposed Rule from Becoming Final. There are a number of ways people can offer their support and voice their concern for the rule change.