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Assembly Panel Releases Two Bills Concerning Coverage and the Dispensing of Hearing Aids in NJ

Bill Sponsored by Assembly Democrats Quijano, Benson and Vainieri Huttle

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Daniel Benson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to expand health benefits coverage and the list of licensed practitioners who can dispense and fit hearing aids in the state was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

The first (A-3974) bill, released by the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, permits certain licensed audiologists to dispense and fit hearing aids. The bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle.
“The purpose of this bill is to give residents more options when seeking professionals who can provide hearing aid services,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “A licensed audiologist is professionally qualified to provide this service and should be able to under state law.”

As provided by the bill, an audiologist licensed to practice, may dispense and fit hearing aids if he has successfully completed, as determined by the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Committee, a program of coursework and clinical training, while demonstrating sufficient didactic and applied experience to be competent in the dispensing and fitting of hearing aids, from an institution of higher education that is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or any organization, as approved by the committee.

The second bill (A-3916), sponsored by Quijano and Benson, requires hospital, medical and health service corporations, commercial insurers, health maintenance organization, health benefits plans issued under the New Jersey Individual Health Coverage and Small Employer Health Benefits Programs, and plans provided by the State health Benefits Commission and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Commission to provide coverage for medically necessary expenses incurred in the purchase of a hearing aid.

“Hearing aids are as essential as prescription glasses and walking aids for our seniors and disabled,” said Quijano (D- Union). “They can also be a burdensome expense and should be covered under state health benefits provided in New Jersey. This legislation aims to increase access to these necessary, and sometimes, life-saving devices.”

“Placing hearing aids under health insurance benefits would be a tremendous help to the many who cannot afford these devices on their own,” said Benson (D- Mercer, Middlesex). “Whether it’s a senior, child or anyone who has experienced hearing loss, they will be able to obtain a hearing aid through their health benefits coverage if this bill is enacted.”

The bill directs the coverage to include the purchase of one analog or digital hearing aid for each ear at least every 48 months, as prescribed or recommended by a state licensed audiologist or state licensed hearing aid dispenser. The total cost sharing responsibility of the covered person for the hearing aid, including any co-payments or deductibles, are not to exceed 15 percent of the cost of the hearing aid.

Both measures will now head to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.