Laconia audiologist Dr. Laura O’Brien Robertson traveled with 175 advocates and health policy experts from across the country to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, to advocate for legislation that will improve access to hearing and balance health care services for millions of Medicare beneficiaries.

“Medicare Part B requirements for coverage of hearing health care services have not kept pace with private insurance coverage. This has caused patients to experience delayed treatment for their hearing and balance concerns and caused increased costs,” said Robertson. “These archaic requirements pose public health risks for aging Americans by placing arbitrary restrictions on coverage for hearing and balance care at the time when that care is most needed.”

In a rare display of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate recently introduced the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act to better deploy audiologists within the Medicare system, to allow patients their choice of qualified Medicare-recognized providers, and to eliminate the requirement for patients to obtain a physician order prior to seeking care from an audiologist. Provisions in the bill will bring Medicare Part B policies in line with private insurers and other federal agencies and programs including the Veterans Health Administration, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, and Medicare Advantage. 

Robertson thanked U.S. Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster, who are co-sponsors of the House bill.  After Robertson’s visit to Capitol Hill, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen also signed on as a cosponsor of the senate bill.

 “For Medicare beneficiaries, enactment of the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act cannot come soon enough,” Robertson said. “Untreated hearing and balance conditions reduce quality of life and carry tremendous financial costs. H.R. 4056 and S. 2446 will make much-needed improvements to Medicare policies that will make it easier for seniors to get the help that they need, and I applaud Representative Pappas, Representative Kuster and Senator Shaheen  for agreeing to cosponsor this landmark legislation and for working to advance it through Congress.”

Ten thousand Americans turn 65 years of age and become Medicare-eligible every day in the United States and easily 25% of them have a disabling hearing loss. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition for adults over 65 years of age, behind arthritis and hypertension. Individuals with mild hearing loss are three times more likely to experience a fall.  Falls are the leading cause of injury and death for Americans over 65 years of age. Concerns about balance are also one of the most common complaints patients have when visiting their medical provider. It is essential to attend to the needs of patients who have hearing loss or who feel their balance is not good.

Dr. Laura O’Brien Robertson is with Audiology Specialists, LLC, Located at 211 South Main St., in Laconia.  She can be reached at 603-528-7700 or via www.audiologyspecialists.com.  Dr. Robertson is also the long term President of the New Hampshire Academy of Audiology.                  

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