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Low Levels of Insurance Reimbursement Impede Access to Cochlear Implants

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Cochlear implants enable many severely to profoundly hearing-impaired people who cannot be helped by hearing aids to understand speech and environmental sounds and to communicate better. The treatment, including the cost of a cochlear implant device and required professional services, can cost more than 40,000. But studies by other organizations show that the benefits of using the technology generally outweigh the treatment costs. About 3,000 people received cochlear implants in the United States in 1999 a number representing only a small percentage of the estimated 460,000 to 740,000 people who are severely to profoundly hearing impaired. Why arent more people getting cochlear implants A number of possible reasons have been advanced. For example, many primary care physicians may be unaware of the availability and performance of the technology and so dont refer patients to appropriate specialists. Many good candidates for cochlear implants may not know about the technology or may not want this treatment. In addition, some members of the deaf community have argued against cochlear implants, especially for children born deaf. A recent RAND study focused on another barrier to making implants more widely available low levels of insurance reimbursement for the device and associated professional services, especially from Medicare and Medicaid. A cochlear inplant is a system of internal and external concomponents that provides useful hearing and improved communication for some deaf individuals. Unlike a hearing aid, which picks up sounds and makes them louder, a cochlear implant takes over the job normally done by the ear, particularly the cochlea, or inner ear. This snail-shaped structure converts sound vibrations into electrical impulses that stimulate hearing nerves, which send signals to the brain, where sound is interpreted.

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  • Medicine and Medical Research

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