Bethany Geldmaker Advocates for Awareness & Continued Coverage

Bethany Geldmaker has an incredible story. Paired with the impactful way that she advocates for the importance of bone anchored hearing systems and her mission to educate others on the process of getting coverage for their bone anchored hearing systems, she’s one of the most powerful voices in the community. Recently, Bethany has accelerated her efforts even more to bring awareness to the changes that The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have proposed that could eliminate coverage for bone anchored hearing devices in 2015.

Our collective rebuttal to the proposed changes must be education that helps people understand just how important it is to keep coverage for bone anchored hearing systems. That’s exactly what Bethany has been doing. She’s been doing this in three key ways:

  • Working to heighten public awareness
  • Encouraging others to educate themselves on solution options
  • Getting information and education in the hands of insurance providers

Here’s Bethany to explain how she works to accomplish these three goals.

First, advocacy begins with making sure folks are aware. Awareness can be difficult, because hearing loss is invisible. Then, those who have hearing loss need to know that bone anchored hearing solutions are an option. And, they need to understand what products exist within that option. The next part of the conversation has to be about how it’s paid for.

Let’s get more people to understand. 

When I first went to get my Ponto, I realized how many others in my doctor’s office were also there who needed the same thing I did. Infants, toddlers, teenagers and myself – from infants to adults—we all had the same problem. There are many types of hearing loss that do not discriminate based on age. That’s something that needs to be made more clear.

In addition to shedding light on how many people are dealing with hearing loss, it’s equally as important to share how poignant of an impact hearing loss can have on one’s life. Because of its invisible nature, it’s hard for other people to understand what it really means for us. It’s so important.

It means:

  1. Earning a living wage
  2. Communicating through basic social interactions — Who wants to sit in a crowded room if you can’t hear anything?
  3. Enjoying cultural arts
  4. Participating in sports

For children, it means developing at the same pace as other children. It means having an equal opportunity at learning and social engagement in school. That’s why it’s so important for bone anchored hearing systems to be covered. We need to be educating the public on these points continuously.

Then, there’s the more in-depth education for those who are considering a bone anchored hearing solution.

Let’s dig deeper and drive education of options. 

When I was looking, there wasn’t a lot of information out there. That’s what I do and when I work with people, I explain that it’s just like making any other large purchase. If you know you need a new heat pump for your house, you look ahead and educate yourself so you make the best decision. This is even more important, because it’s something that will impact your life. My main message to those who are considering the solution to correcting their hearing loss is to try the options and see what works best. In this age of the Internet and self-education, no one has to accept a prescribed solution. Empower yourself, and you’ll get the best results.

Here’s a list of online user groups and forums that offer great information and access to bone anchored hearing systems and BAHS users.

Then, we talk about funding. I always ask, “have you had a conversation with your insurance company?” A lot of people make an assumption that because it’s so needed it’ll be covered. That’s not always the case, because this isn’t something insurance companies have a great deal of experience with.

Let’s get out there and educate insurance providers.

When I got my bone anchored hearing system in 2011, my insurance company, which is a good third party reimburser, had a lot of questions. They had a very limited experience with this type of request, so it took some education. Providers need to be more aware of what’s going on and truly understand how significant the impact of hearing loss can be.

My advice? Make sure that there are people in your clinic or doctor’s office who can have a conversation with your insurance company and stay on top of it. Tell them, this is not uncommon—for single sided deafness, 4 out of 10,000 people every year have experienced this type of hearing loss. How much of a voice you and the clinic have together make up your ability to get what you need.

What we all need to realize is that the proposed changes to eliminate coverage could effect a much bigger population than just those who are covered under the Medicare program. It’s likely that these implications could trickle down to other payers too. If that happens, we’d be taking a step back in time. We would be undoing work on an incredibly important problem that we’ve just begun to address properly—one that we’ve just started to educate the public and providers on appropriately. So, I encourage you to speak out. And, I encourage you to speak out now.

Register your comments use the following link:http://www.regulations.gov/#!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=15840;fp=true;ns=true and comment under proposed rule:

Medicare Program: End-Stage Renal Disease Prospective Payment System, Quality Incentive Program, and Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies  (ID: CMS-2014-0092-0002)

Do you have questions about how you can speak out? Let us know here or by leaving your comments and questions below. Stay up to date on the latest news on the proposed changes by signing up for our newsletter here.

Would you like to learn more about Bethany’s story? Click here.

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