Medicaid coverage for hearing devices restored under Bailey bill

The state Senate approved Sen. Barbara Bailey’s legislation, Senate Bill 5179, which would require coverage for hearing instruments under public-employee and Medicaid programs.

The Senate had previously approved the legislation unanimously during the 2017 legislative session, but it was never brought up by the House.

“This is a needed expansion of coverage to those struggling to pay for these expensive medical devices,” said Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “This legislation will not only help aging populations who are hard of hearing but also low-income adults and children who may be struggling to succeed in class without access to hearing aids.”

If signed into law, health plans offered to Medicaid enrollees and state employees must include coverage for hearing instruments beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Hearing instruments can cost more than $2,000, putting the vital devices out of reach for many low-income Washingtonians.

“Medicaid stopped covering hearing aids in 2011, and this is a much-needed fix,” Bailey added. “This is about access and affordability for those suffering from hearing loss, which can mean all the difference. I am hopeful that the House will act since this policy is funded in the governor’s proposed budget.”

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.