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September 12, 2019

Why State Medicaid Programs Should Cover Hearing Aids for Adults

Author Affiliations
  • 1Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 2Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 3Former staff attorney, Disability Rights Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online September 12, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2019.2616

To our knowledge, all states recognize their Medicaid programs must cover hearing aids for children younger than 21 years, in accordance with the Medicaid statute’s early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment requirements. Advocates have contended that long-standing statutes and federal guidance also require this coverage for adults. As of 2016, however, only 28 states’ Medicaid programs covered hearing aids and related services for qualifying adults.1 Recent federal regulatory clarifications have further reinforced state Medicaid programs’ obligation to cover hearing aids for adults. Some additional states have since updated their Medicaid programs to include this coverage, but many have not done so. In state Medicaid programs that do not currently cover hearing aids for adults, many low-income enrollees either go without treatment for hearing loss or must pay high out-of-pocket costs. Herein, we discuss why hearing aids and related services should be covered for all Medicaid enrollees for whom they are medically necessary, regardless of age.

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