Proposal May Change Coverage For Hearing Device Used By Cloquet Baby

Updated: 07/28/2014 10:40 PM
Created: 07/28/2014 4:35 PM
By: Laurie Stribling

"It means a lot to a lot of people," Andrea Dowell said.

Dowell is talking about a hearing system clipped to her 10-month-old daughter's pink headband.

"It takes our voices and converts them into vibrations against her skull," Dowell said. "Then, the vibrations go straight to her cochlea and that goes straight to her brain."

Dowell's daughter Ashlyn was born without ears, but her inner ears are fully developed allowing a bone-anchored hearing system to work.

"As long as she has a bone-anchored hearing system to wear, she can pretty much hear sound just like you and I," Dowell said.

Ashlyn uses a Cochlear Baha Implant System that is currently covered by insurance, but a federal proposal would reclassify the device as a hearing aid. That would mean no coverage by Medicare.

Dowell said she's worried if Medicare makes the change in coverage, private insurance companies and Medicaid will do the same.

A spokesperson for the Department of Human Services in Minnesota said that's not necessarily the case. She said Medicaid currently covers medically-necessary hearing aids.

"Each Baha, on the cheaper end, is about $4,000," Dowell said.

Dowell said it's the only answer for her daughter dealing with a condition only one in 10,000 babies have.

"This isn't an option," Dowell said. "It's not a luxury for her and for a lot of kids, adults and older people. It's their livelihood."

For example, her daughter's first big smile happened when she first tried out the Baha.

"She was sleeping and her eyes popped open right away as soon as we started talking," Dowell said. "She just kind of stared at us for awhile and got a smile on her face."

Regardless of coverage, that moment was priceless for the Dowell family.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are taking comments on the proposal. If you want to share your thoughts on the potential Medicare change, click here.

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