United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va) announced the introduction of Ally’s Act, bipartisan legislation that would ensure private insurance companies provide coverage for osseointegrated hearing device (OIDs), including bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA) and cochlear implants. OIDs are a type of hearing aid that benefit a wider range of people with hearing loss and are often the only hearing device that can restore hearing for individuals born with hearing loss.
“Far too many Americans are left behind due to hearing loss and cannot access the devices they need because their insurance will not cover it, leaving many adults and children in the US without a solution to restore their hearing,” Senator Warren said. “Our bipartisan bill is a simple fix that increases access to these specialized hearing devices and gives Americans across the country a chance to be a part of every conversation.”
“Many of us take for granted the gift of hearing and how often we rely on our senses to effectively communicate with one another,” said Senator Capito. “It is important that we take the necessary steps to improve our health insurance systems and ensure these critical devices are readily available for those who need them. OIDs are even more crucial for individuals born with hearing deficiencies, as the first five years of life are important for speech and language development. I’m proud to introduce Ally’s Act, which will help establish better access to these critical hearing devices for those that need them.”
The legislation is named after 10-year-old Colorado native, Ally Tumblin who was born without a right ear or hearing canal and, therefore, requires the use of a bone-anchored hearing aid. Following a denial for her hearing device, Ally and her mother formed the organization Ear Community, to help advocate for insurance coverage of these hearing devices to ensure no person is left unable to hear because of private insurance companies’ refusal to cover OIDs.
A companion bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives in December by Congressmen Joe Neguse (D-Colo), David B. McKinley, PE (R-W.Va), and Mike Thompson (D-Calif).
Senator Warren believes that all Americans should have access to health care, including hearing technology.
- In July 2019, Senators Warren and Rand Paul (R-Ky) announced the reintroduction of the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act, which was originally introduced in 2018 and would ensure seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have access to a full range of hearing and balance healthcare services provided by licensed audiologists. In May 2020, Senator Warren and Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) led a letter, along with Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-Pa), Senator Paul, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz), Congressman Darren Soto (D-Fla), Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla), and Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill), to House and Senate leadership urging them to include provisions of the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act in upcoming COVID-19 packages.
- In December 2016, Senators Warren and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), introduced the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, which they later reintroduced with Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga) in March 2017. The bipartisan bill passed in August 2017 and requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to permit the sale of traditional hearing aids over the counter.
- She has also partnered with Senator Grassley to encourage the FDA to improve consumer access to hearing aids, and she and Senator Paul have called on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma to remove roadblocks that prevent Medicare beneficiaries with hearing loss from accessing audiology services.
Source: Senator Elizabeth Warren website