By Becky Montgomery
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.
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.
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.
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.