Enacted Legislation to Further Regulate the Sale of Hearing Aids
The Alliance worked proactively for the several years to get legislation enacted to cut down on the number of patients purchasing hearing aids on-line without first receiving a proper hearing evaluation.
This legislation was important because as you well know, an unnecessary or ill fitted hearing aid can cause more harm than good to the patient. A hearing instrument specialist, audiologists, or physician needs to be a part of the process to ensure the patient does not have an underlying medical condition causing the hearing loss. A specialist can ensure that if a hearing aid is needed, the consumer is getting the most appropriate aid to meet their needs.
The law requires that a consumer provide “written acknowledgement” that an in-person hearing evaluation is recommended before purchasing a hearing aid through the mail.
The law also states that only a hearing aid specialists, physician, or audiologist are permitted to recommend and fit hearing aids. Further, the language is included in the consumer sales practice law, so if companies are not complying with the “written acknowledgement” provision, consumers have a means to seek recourse.
The Governor signed the legislation in to law on December 19, 2014 and the effective date was March 23, 2015.
So what should you be doing now? If a patient comes into your office after March 23, 2015 with an inappropriate hearing aid that they bought without getting a hearing evaluation, ask them if the company they purchased from received written acknowledgement from them that they understood they should receive a hearing evaluation before selecting a hearing aid. If they did not, you will want to encourage the customer to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, as the company may be subject to a fine of up to $1000.
We want those complaints to be formally logged with the AG’s office, so they can begin tracking compliance with law. If we find that companies are not complying, we will have data to back up any attempt we make to strengthen the law in the future.
2013 - Ohio Board of Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology Draft Rule
The Hearing Healthcare Alliance of Ohio sent a letter to the Ohio Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (Audiology Board) stating our concerns with a draft rule of the Audiology Board. The Audiology Board’s draft rule sought to regulate the place of employment of audiologists and the hours the audiologist works based on the audiologist’s place of employment, unless the audiologist works solely with other audiologists.
The rule attempted to inappropriately interfere with the working relationship of the employer and his/her employees. In many respects, the rule attempts to hold the audiologist accountable for what the Board of Audiology perceives as “wrongs” of the business, even though the Board has no authority to tell the business what it can do.
The Hearing Healthcare Alliance of Ohio did not agree that the Audiology Board has the authority to regulate the place of employment of licensed audiologists. As long as a licensed audiologist is licensed and meets the Board’s standards and ethics, and works within the audiologist’s scope of practice, an audiologist should be free to work wherever the audiologist chooses.
As a response to our concerns, the Audiology Board did not move forward with the proposal.
Hearing Aid Assistance Rules – 2013-present
The Ohio Department of Health drafted rules to implement a program to provide assistance for purchasing hearing aids for children, under the age of 21, with permanent hearing loss. The rules as drafted in November 2013, limited the providers who can assist in administering this program to audiologists.
The Alliance submitted comments to ODH, asking for hearing aid specialists to also be included as qualified providers. Alliance representatives also had conversations with the Common Sense Initiative, a government body that reviews rules.
Based off of our discussions, the rules were re-drafted to allow hearing aid specialist licensed under 4747 to work with possible participates of this program aged 18-21. The rules were also amended to require a written statement signed by a physician that states the individual has been medically evaluated and may be considered a candidate for a hearing aid.
Language is included in the current budget proposal to continue this program for the next two years.
BWC Draft Rules – 2014-present
The Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) sent out a package of rules they proposed amending the Health Partnership Program (administrative rules Chapter 4123-6). They were seeking comments on the proposed changes. In reviewing the package, Alliance representatives noticed a provision that could be interpreted to exclude all hearing aid specialists from working with BWC patients. Provision 4123-6-02.2 (B)(4) was written to say that a provider could not be credentialed through BWC if they are not an eligible provider of Medicaid or Medicare. As you are all too aware, Medicare does not currently recognize hearing aid specialists as providers.
The Alliance does not believe it was the intent of BWC to exclude all hearing aid specialists from working with Ohio’s injured workers. So, we submitted comments on June 16, 2014 suggesting that the language be amended to say:
(4) BeNot be currently eligible for excluded from participation in Medicare, or Medicaid for cause, or the Ohio workers' compensation system.
By adding the words “for cause” to (B)(4), the provision will not exclude entire provider populations who are not eligible providers under Medicare or Medicaid. Instead, the provision will exclude those potential bad actors within a provider population that the Alliance believes is the true intent of the provision.
We heard back from BWC on July 14, 2014 that they agreed with our assessment and will incorporate our suggested language into the rule package. However, the rules have not been officially filed with JCARR for formal review. We will continue to watch this rule to ensure it is enacted as intended.
House Bill 109 Passes the Senate!
December 12, 2014
The bill still states that only a hearing aid specialists, physician, or audiologist are permitted to recommend and fit hearing aids. Further, the language is still included in the consumer sales practice law, so if internet companies are not complying with the "written acknowledgement" provision, consumers have a means to seek recourse. The Alliance is particularly thankful to Senator Kevin Bacon (R - Columbus). Senator Bacon is the Chairman of the Senate committee who considered HB 109. He worked hard to get a version of HB 109 passed and spoke in favor of the importance of those in-person evaluations. While not perfect, this is a decidedly positive step forward.
Next, the House of Representative will have to concur on the changes made in the Senate. We expect that to happen on Wednesday. Then it's off to the Governor for signature and then folks....we have law!!
May 23, 2013
House Bill 545 is now House Bill 109. We have had several hearings on this issue and received lots of
support. Sherri Hughes
testified on our behalf. We also heard testimony from Tyler Bowes - a constituent of Representative Damschroder who has worn
hearing aids his whole life; Gail Whitelaw - representing the Ohio Speech and Hearing Governmental
Affairs Coalition; Gregg Thornton - Executive Director of the Ohio Board of Speech-Language
Pathology and Audiology; and 3 additional groups/people
submitted written comments. We are getting close to a decision. Please call us if you have any questions.
May 15, 2012
Representative Rex Damschroder proposed House Bill 545 on May 15,
2012. This bill introduces our internet hearing aid legislation. This bill will amend
sections 1345.30 and 1345.99 of the Revised Code to specify individuals who are permitted to recommend and fit
hearing aids and to prohibit specified sales of hearing aids via mail.
Senate Bill 304 was proposed on March 28th 2012 by State Senator
Troy Balderson. If approved it would designate May as “Better Hearing and Speech Month”.
Senators Bill Seitz and Shirley Smith have introduced Senate Bill 337 and Representatives Ross McGregor
and Tracy Heard have introduced House Bill 524. These are lengthy bills and one of the provisions would
prohibit the preclusion of individuals from obtaining or renewing certain licenses, certifications,
or permits due to any past criminal history unless the individual had committed a
crime of moral turpitude or a disqualifying offense. The Hearing Aid Dealers and Fitters License is
included in the bill.
New Rule Change Requires One Hour of Ethics or State Law Beginning in 2009, all hearing
instrument specialists and audiologists licensed under ORC 4747 are required to have one hour of ethics or
state law as part of the ten (10) continuting education hours needed to renew your license. There are several
ways to obtain this hour. You can attend a licensing board meeting in Columbus to receive this credit. There
are four (4) licensing board meetings per year. Contact Brenda Bruce at 614-466-5215 for more information.