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Advocacy Update – April 2018

The following bills were introduced in Congress or in the Michigan legislature in 2017. To see what is happening with each bill, scroll past the list below and read on. If you are looking for an update on a particular bill, click on that bill and go directly to the update.

Bills introduced in Congress:
H.R. 620, ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 – Call to Action
H.R. 3111, 508 & 3426, Medicare Bills for Coverage of Hearing Aids – Update
Over-the- Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act of 2017 – Update

Bills introduced in the Michigan Legislature:
H.B. 5258, The EMPOWER Bill – Update
H.B. 5159, The Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing Children’s Educational Bill of Rights – Update
H.B. 4713 & House Bill 4714, Behavioral Health Bills – Update
H.B. 4440, Cytomegalovirus Public Education Awareness Bill – Update


Bills introduced in Congress:

H.R. 620 – ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 – Introduced in the House of Representatives
on January 24, 2017, by Representative Ted Poe of Texas.
This bill passed the House on February 15, 2018, and has been sent to the Senate. To date, no similar
bill has emerged from the Senate. HLAA and HLAA-MI OPPOSE THIS LEGISLATION!

H.R. 620 would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a critical source of rights for
people with disabilities to architectural access in public accommodations—that is, businesses such
as stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. (taken from HLAA website)
HLAA needs you to contact your Senators today! Please go to http://hearingloss.org/content/save-ada-hlaa-opposes-hr620 and read:

 A sample message to send to your Senators
 HLAA’s analysis of changes to the ADA that would be caused by H.R. 620
 Letters sent by HLAA to the Minority Leader in the Senate and the Speaker of the House
 To obtain a copy of the bill

Contact your Senators:

Senator Gary Peters                                                      Senator Debbie Stabenow
www.peters.senate.gov                                                www.stabenow.senate.gov
724 Hart Senate Office Building                                731 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510                                                Washington, DC 20510

NOTE: The most effective way to make your voice heard is to contact Senators through
their personal websites.

Sign up for HLAA eNews (Hearingloss.org) or the HLAA-MI advocacy list (advocacy@hearingloss-mi.org) for
future announcements and Calls to Action related to this issue.

Medicare Coverage of Hearing Aids

Currently, Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing testing or hearing aids. They do cover
hearing testing if ordered by a doctor for a medical problem, such as an ear infection, and then, it
may depends on the diagnostic code assigned to the outcome of the test.

Medicaid will cover testing, hearing aids and associated equipment and fitting services for those
under 21 years of age. They may cover hearing testing for adults but not hearing aids. The issue
with Medicaid is that reimbursement is negligible and the paperwork so extensive that providers
may not participate with the program.

At this time, there are three bills in Congress for Medicare coverage of hearing aids. All have
been introduced in the House.

H.R. 3111 – Medicare Bill for Coverage of Dental, Vision and Hearing Benefit Act of 2017
Introduced end of June by Representative Sander Levin of Michigan – To amend title XVIII of the
Social Security Act to provide for coverage of dental, vision, and hearing care under the Medicare
program.

H.R. 508 – the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act of 2017
Introduced in January (2017) by a Representative from California. To expand Medicare coverage
to include eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dental care.

H.R. 3426 – Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2017
Introduced towards the end of July by Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan. This bill
amends title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to allow Medicare coverage of hearing
aids and related examinations. The Government Accountability Office must study programs that
provide assistance for hearing aids and related examinations for individuals with hearing loss.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a legislative branch government agency that
provides auditing, evaluation, and investigative services for the United States Congress. It is the
supreme audit institution of the federal government of the United States. Currently these
benefits are statutorily excluded from Medicare coverage.

Over-the- Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act of 2017

The OTC Hearing Aid Act was signed into law in August of 2017. The law mandates that the Federal
Communication Commission (FCC) develop a hearing aid category within 3 years. At some time in the
future, the FCC will release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that will give stakeholders a
chance to give input into the rules and regulations for what this Act will look like.
To stay abreast of rules being developed and to give input when the NPRM becomes available, sign up
for HLAA eNews (Hearingloss.org) or the HLAA-MI advocacy list (advocacy@hearingloss-mi.org) for future
announcements and Calls to Action.


Bills introduced in the Michigan Legislature:

The EMPOWER Bill, H.B. 5258– Introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives on October
24, 2017, by Representative Martin Howrylak.

The Early Meaningful Parental Outreach with Educational Resources Law amends the Revised School
Code, to prescribe assessments and developmental milestones for deaf, deafblind, and hard-of- hearing
students (“designated children”) from birth to age 8.

The Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing Children’s Educational Bill of Rights, H.B. 5159 –Introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives on October 24, 2017, by Representative Phil Phelps.

House Bill 5159 would create the Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing Children’s Educational Bill of
Rights Law within the Revised School Code.

To read the two bills along with a detailed summary by the House Fiscal Agency go to (you will need to search for the bills):
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/ 

Both bills were referred to the Committee on Health Policy where they remain at this time. The
Committee held a hearing on the bills on October 25, 2017, and only three people were allowed to
give testimony for or against the bills; representatives from the Michigan Chapter of Alexander
Graham Bell (AG Bell) and Deaf Advocates, and Annie Urasky – Director of the Division on Deaf,
DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing. Deaf Advocates, Hands & Voices and HLAA-MI support both bills. AG
Bell does not support the EMPOWER Bill but does support the Bill of Rights Bill.

 

H.B. 4713 & 4714 – Behavioral Health Bills– Introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives
on June 7, 2017, by Representative Phil Phelps.

HB 4713 would establish a “division” on behavioral health for deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing
people within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). H.B. 4714 establishes a
“commission” on behavioral health for people who are Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing within
DHHS. Behavioral health is defined to mean the prevention and treatment of mental illness and
substance use disorder. Currently, there is a lack of behavioral health services to these populations,
due in part to a lack of trained professionals who understand the impact of deafness/hearing loss and
who can communicate proficiently with those seeking services. Thus, the purpose of both the division
and the commission is to improve, protect and assist behavioral health services to people who are
Deaf, Deafblind or Hard of Hearing.

Both bills were referred to the Committee on Health Policy. As of this date neither bill has been
brought before the committee and an analysis of the bills is not available. HLAA-MI supports these
bills.

H.B. 4440 – Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Public Education Awareness– Introduced in the House of
Representatives on March 30, 2017 by Representative Robert Kosowski.

Amends Public Health Code of 1978 to require the state health department to do a public and health
provider education and awareness campaign on risks related to cytomegalovirus. Referred to
Committee on Health Policy. To date no action has been taken on the bill. HLAA-MI supports this bill.

CMV is a virus called Congenital Cytomegalovirus or cCMV. Approximately 1 in 150 babies are born
with cCMV. It is the number one cause of non-hereditary hearing loss in children. Diagnosing cCMV
must occur within the first 3 weeks of life. Without universal newborn screening, it is difficult to
know which babies have non-symptomatic cCMV infections. Only 10% of cCMV babies have
symptoms. Non-symptomatic CMV babies can acquire hearing loss at older ages, such as 4 years and
up to and including young adulthood. Babies born with congenital CMV may be born with other birth
defects and developmental disabilities.

For more information, go to: https://www.nationalcmv.org/congenital-cmv/outcomes.aspx.