On October 31, after a several-month-long battle, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ruled that Bone Anchored Hearing Systems and auditory osseointegrated implants (AOIs) will remain a covered benefit for Medicare enrollees with qualifying indications.
As many of you know and have experienced, Bone Anchored Hearing Systems (BAHS) are an important and life-changing tool to fight against hearing loss that cannot be duplicated by traditional hearing aids. More than 100,000 people are currently benefitting from a BAHS.
According to a 2001 study;
“The BAHS bone-anchored hearing system provides a reliable and predictable adjunct for auditory rehabilitation in appropriately selected patients, offering a means of dramatically improving hearing thresholds in patients with conductive or mixed hearing loss who are otherwise unable to benefit from traditional hearing aids.”
In order for a BAHS, like the Ponto System, to be covered by Medicare it cannot be statutorily excluded, and it must fall into a covered benefit category. After being covered since late 2005, in July CMS proposed to revise the scope of what is considered to be a hearing aid. These changes, if finalized, would have resulted in the elimination of coverage of bone anchored hearing devices. In a previously released statement in response to the proposed discontinuation of coverage, Oticon Medical issued a statement saying that if the proposal takes effect, “It will effectively terminate all Medicare coverage for new bone-anchored implant surgeries as well as terminate funding for replacement processors for current bone-anchored implant users under Medicare.” The decision to maintain coverage of BAHSs will improve the quality of life for those who suffer from conductive or mixed hearing loss and single-sided deafness.
Oticon Medical would like to thank all who supported this cause. You took the time to tell your story and comment on the proposal, which made a huge impact. Among the many people and groups fighting to maintain this were the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), patients and families, manufacturers, ENTs, audiologists, American Cochlear Implant Alliance, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, and our entire industry. AAA took the time and care to submit comments and letters. We also had strong support from the Hearing Health Caucus co-chaired by Tom Latham and Carolyn McCarthy– many members signed their letter that circulated the House.
Several representatives, including U.S. Representative David McKinley (R-WV) urged the CMS to maintain coverage and shared the story of his grandson who underwent a procedure to implant a hearing device.
The decision by CMS is a victory for the many new and existing users of the Ponto system and other bone anchored hearing solutions who will continue to have access to this proven and effective treatment for conductive or mixed hearing loss and single-sided deafness.
We’re proud to say: Oticon Medical’s Ponto System, along with other BAHSs will remain covered and not be reclassified as a hearing aid.
It is also a victory for the many professional organizations, bone anchored hearing system providers, industry and advocacy groups that joined together to educate policy makers of the benefits of bone anchored implants in advance of the CMS proposal that would withdraw coverage. Oticon Medical is proud to have joined in this collective effort by mobilizing our resources and networks to build awareness. Together, we have succeeded in demonstrating the life-changing potential of bone anchored implants.
We encourage all to continue to build on this victory to extend understanding and appreciation of the value of bone anchored implants among medical and hearing care professionals, insurance providers, regulators and the general public. As the success of the CMS initiative proves – working together, we can open a world of sound to people by ensuring access to innovative solutions that improve the quality of life now and in the future.