Representatives Tom Latham (R-IA) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) today reintroduced the bipartisan Hearing Aid Tax Credit (H.R. 1479) with 36 original co-sponsors, including 4 members of the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill is unchanged from legislation in the 111th Congress that attracted a record 131 co-sponsors by the end of the session. In the Senate, Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are organizing original co-sponsors as they prepare to reintroduce companion legislation in that chamber.
The Hearing Aid Tax Credit would provide assistance to many of the 34 million people who need hearing aids to treat their hearing loss. Medicare expressly excludes coverage of hearing aids as do most private insurance policies, and as a result, cost is cited as a prohibitive factor by two thirds of the people who do not treat their hearing loss. If enacted, H.R. 1479 would provide a $500 tax credit per hearing aid for children and people age 55 and older. That would be a critical assist since 61% of all hearing aid purchases involve no third party payment of any kind, and only 25% of people who could benefit from hearing aids actual use them according to the latest MarkeTrak report.
HIA’s Chairman, Todd Murray, points out that “given that hearing aids can help 95% of people with hearing loss, it is tragic that the lack of financial assistance continues to create a significant barrier to access for millions of Americans.” The Hearing Aid Tax Credit is actively supported as a way to provide some assistance by hearing health organizations including the Alexander Graham Bell Assn for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell), Hearing Loss Assn of America (HLAA), Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), American Academy of Audiology (AAA), American Speech Language Hearing Assn (ASHA), American Tinnitus Association (ATA), International Hearing Society (IHS) and Hearing Industries Association (HIA).
The hearing health community has worked as a coalition to focus Congressional attention on the importance of hearing health and the burdens associated with the lack of financial assistance for treatment. In addition to coalition efforts on Capitol Hill, HIA has sponsored local AG Bell, HLAA and IHS chapters that have hosted events for Representatives and Senators in their districts to demonstrate the importance of this legislation to voters. Five local events to thank hearing champions were held in the 111th Congress including programs that attracted 180 people in the Philadelphia suburbs for Rep. Allyson Schwartz; 200 people in Henderson, NV for Rep. Dina Titus; 120 people in suburban Houston for Rep. Pete Olson; 180 people in E. Lansing, MI for Sen Debbie Stabenow and 120 people in La Crosse, WI for Rep. Ron Kind. A total of 13 constituent events have been held since the hearing coalition first started work in support of the tax credit.
In addition, this legislation has attracted dramatic grassroots attention, motivating Americans across the nation to send more than 75,000 emails and letters to their elected Members of Congress since 2008 by visiting www.hearingaidtaxcredit.org. Murray notes that “hearing loss is an issue that affects millions of people, and this legislation could have a great impact on their ability to afford hearing aid treatment - we are honored that so many Representatives have recognized this fact and have lent this cause record support.”
HIA, headquartered in Washington, DC, is the national trade association of manufacturers of hearing aids, implantable hearing devices, assistive listening devices, component parts and power sources for amplification devices. Visit www.hearingaidtaxcredit.org for information about the bill, or contact Andy Bopp, firstname.lastname@example.org.