New Insurance Benefits for Hearing Aids in Washington State

By Becky Montgomery

doctor in white coat with stethoscope stands to the right side, leaving a sky blue background to the left. he is cupping his hands around a silhouette image of a man, woman, and two children.

Great news! As of January 1, 2024, thousands of people in Washington State can finally use their health insurance to get hearing health care, thanks to a new state law.

And the required insurance benefit is generous: up to $3000 per ear every three years. This amount is enough for most people to buy the hearing aids they need — most people pay a bit less than $2400, according to Hearing Aid Price Tracker. This coverage is a huge boost, especially for people with hearing loss who would be helped by working with a skilled audiologist and added enhancements like Bluetooth.

Who does the new law cover?

The new law benefits thousands of people in Washington:

  • People employed by companies who aren’t self-insured and who have more than 50 employees
  • Workers in the public school system
  • Employees of the State of Washington in a position covered by the State Employees Benefits Board.

With this new law, Washington State is much closer to ensuring that everyone who needs a hearing instrument can easily get one. We still have a few gaps in insurance coverage: Seniors who have Medicare but not a Medicare Advantage plan, people who buy insurance without a group (such individual policies on the Washington HealthPlan Finder), and people who work for small businesses that do not offer insurance coverage.

What’s next?

Thanks to the advocacy of HLAA-WA and others, our state legislators took steps in 2023 to close some of those gaps, although it won’t be instantaneous. With the passage of Senate Bill 5338, the State of Washington Insurance Commissioner will request a change to our state’s Essential Health Benefits (EHB). The EHB spells out what every health insurance plan must offer, or at least all of the plans that the state oversees (for example, the state does not oversee Medicare or military health plans). It is likely that federal officials will approve the request, and that on January 1, 2026, the new coverage would start for individual and some group healthcare plan providers, including policies offered on the Washington State HealthPlan Finder.

Thank you!

At HLAA-WA, our members and community played a huge role in getting these bills passed into law in 2023. We are proud of these accomplishments, and we are grateful to all who helped.

Update, February 6, 2024: We’re working with the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner for some more details on companies that will offer coverage. Stay tuned.


About the author

 

blurred photo of a woman with short brown hair and glasses.

Becky Montgomery writes about living with hearing loss from a very personal place – she has progressive hearing loss. She managed with hearing aids for 20-odd years but now wears bilateral cochlear implants.

Becky is now retired and works hard at catching up on her reading and movie watching. In the past, she worked at Microsoft, where she was deeply involved in the company’s Employee Resource Group for Disability. She’s also an HLAA-WA Board member.

8 thoughts on “New Insurance Benefits for Hearing Aids in Washington State

  1. Marilyn Molinari says:

    Please send me a list of venues that are wired for Loop and T-Coil hearing aid in the Seattle region. (Theaters, concert halls, museums, restaurants, retail locations, etc) Thank you

    1. JoAnne Dyer says:

      Hi Marilyn,

      You can see a list of looped locations in Seattle and across Washington State on our sister site, loopwashington.org.

      You can also use Google Maps to see if a venue has a loop by checking the venue’s accessibility attributes. Here’s a blog post that explains in more detail: https://www.hearingloss.org/google-maps-now-includes-hearing-loops/ .

      Off the top of my head, I can mention a few looped venues: Seattle Rep, Village Theatre, Federal Way Performing Arts & Events Center, Town Hall Seattle, Seattle and King County Councils, Bellevue Arts Museum, Lincoln Theater in Mount Vernon, and Bellevue Library Meeting Room 1.

      I hope this helps!

      –JoAnne Dyer, HLAA-WA

  2. Susie Mewsie says:

    Hi Becky,
    THANK YOU for writing this article, I am so excited to learn about this new HA coverage! Would you happen to know how to find out which companies offer this coverage now? Just want to be sure I find employment with a company with the non-grandfathered large group health plans issued or reissued in 2024. Do you know where I can find this info? I am very grateful person with profound hearing loss in need of hearing aids looking for a new job and I want to be sure to only look for work with companies who are honoring this new law. Thanks again!

    1. JoAnne Dyer says:

      Hi Susie,

      We’re checking on this for you. We’ll see what we can find out! –JoAnne Dyer, HLAA-WA

  3. David Lesle Johnson says:

    Large companies such as Boeing do not provide coverage through their health plans.
    I’m retired with sever hearing loss and the Boeing Aetna health plan only provides $1000 every 3 years.
    My health plan switched from Blue Sheild to Aetna in January 2024.
    Boeing/SPEEA says “Washington state insurance laws do not apply to Boeing medical plans”.
    So how many people will actually benefit from this new law in comparison to those who will not?

    1. Becky Montgomery says:

      Hi David,

      I’m sorry that you find yourself in this situation. There’s no question that our insurance system has big holes that are filled with real people.

      To clarify what we know…

      The new law adds coverage for:
      –State employees covered under Public Employees Benefits Board (~220,000)
      –School employees (117,000)
      –Higher education (53,800 at UW alone)

      Making a guess, that adds up to about 400,000 people employed in some kind of publicly owned organization who are covered by the new law.

      After that comes the messy calculations you’re mentioning, the fully insured vs the self-funded. From the Wakely report to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, “Analysis of Requiring Coverage for Hearing Instruments” (November 2021.)

      Enrollment (year) 2023 2024
      Large Group (Fully Insured) 502,000 498,000
      Small Group 239,000 240,000
      Individual 172,000 162,000
      Total 913,000 900,000

      Regarding the self-funded, like Boeing: According to Kaiser Family Foundation, 71% of companies with more than 100 employees are self-funded. Insurance at these companies, as you mentioned, is NOT subject to state laws, only federal laws. Still, again according to KFF, 82% of self-funded plans cover hearing aids. I have personal experience with two self-funded companies who together employ tens of thousands: Microsoft and Amazon. Both companies pay 100% of costs for hearing aids with no price limits, only frequency limits.

      We’d love to see coverage for truly everyone in Washington State–and elsewhere, for that matter. It’s an issue that HLAA-WA and HLAA will continue to work on.

      We’re also working on a follow-up post with more details.

      My best wishes to you, David. And thanks for your letter.

      –Becky Montgomery, HLAA-WA Board Member

  4. Jenny Thurston says:

    How can we push for coverage under Medicare Supplemental Plans?

    1. JoAnne Dyer says:

      Hi Jenny,

      It turns out that a lot of Medicare Advantage plans do cover hearing aids. It’s worth a call to your insurance company or your audiologist, if you have a Medicare Advantage plan.

      What’s missing is hearing aid coverage under Medicare itself. The national HLAA office is always working on that, and there is a bill introduced in the U.S. Congress: https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/244?s=1&r=76

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