Deaf Foundation Calls for Revision of Hearing Aid Funding

Published: Mon 6 Oct 2014 12:49 PM
The National Foundation for the Deaf Calls for Revision of Hearing Aid Funding Scheme
One in every six New Zealanders live with some type of hearing loss. Hearing aid technologies are significant key to many of them living a full life.
The Ministry of Health's Hearing Aid Funding Scheme (HAFS) was established to cover the cost of hearing aids for adults with long-term hearing difficulties and dual disability or low income.
Results from a recent survey conducted by a University of Auckland Masters student indicate that the current hearing aid funding scheme does not meet the needs of many adults who fit the policy criteria.
It is time for a rethink on this concerning issue.
The survey (which invited participation from twenty District Health Boards [DHBs]), strongly indicates that private co-payment fees and limited services are negatively impacting adults who have long-term disability and are on a low-income. These are the very people who need this assistance the most.
Of concern, 33% of DHBs reported requiring service fees or co-payment fees from people eligible for HAFS. Fees charged by the DHB, which are over and above the cost price of the hearing aid which is met by the Ministry of Health, range from under $199 to as high as $500-$799 in a small number of cases. It’s a post-code lottery as to whether they will get the service cost of fitting the hearing aids paid for by the DHB.
In comparison, ACC or War Pensions, who also fund hearing aids, not only pay for the cost of the hearing technology but contribute significantly to the service cost of fitting the hearing aids.
As HAFS only covers the cost of the hearing aids and does not fund or contribute to the cost of the hearing aids fitting or service fee, then, who does? We have been advised these people have no-where else to go.
Between 2008 and 2013 the government’s annual expenditure on hearing aids was slashed from $27 million to $15 million, in spite of an increasing need for hearing aids due to our aging population. When you combine these statistics with the inability to access HAFS funded hearing aids there is real cause for concern.
The National Foundation for the Deaf believes the Ministry of Health Hearing Aid Funding Scheme needs revising, to ensure it provides access for New Zealanders with long-term hearing difficulties, dual disability or low income.
This access would come through funding the fitting or service fee component of appropriately prescribed hearing aids.

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