ATLANTA—The National Institutes of Health has awarded Georgia State University health economist Michael Pesko a $1.8 million grant to study the effects of state mandates requiring insurance companies to cover hearing aids.
Today, 23 states mandate health insurance companies provide full or partial hearing aid coverage for children, and five states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire and Rhode Island) extend these mandates to adults. The study will help policymakers understand how hearing aid insurance mandates for adults affect use and disparities in hearing health care.
A sizable number of Americans have significant hearing loss, including 24 percent of those ages 12 and older and more than two-thirds of adults 70 and older. An estimated 86 percent of hearing loss cases are estimated to go untreated because hearing aids are generally not covered by insurance plans. Untreated hearing loss is costly to society. Studies have found it leads to lower educational attainment, work productivity, happiness and life expectancy.
“Government has yet to widely adopt approaches that would increase access to hearing aids,” said Pesko, an associate professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. “Our research will identify how hearing aid mandates improve access to hearing health overall, from hearing screenings to hearing aid purchasing to hearing aid use. This will provide policymakers with important information on how well these mandates work.”
Pesko’s research team includes experts in clinical audiology, health economics, advanced statistical modeling, insurance claims data and health policy. For their research questions, they will use several government-collected survey data sources and Anthem insurance claims data for over 50 million non-elderly adult beneficiaries.
“By using cutting-edge methods within high-quality data, we hope to build a compelling evidence base that can inform future decisions about using insurance to expand access to hearing aids,” said Michelle Arnold, a co-investigator on the project and assistant professor in the Doctor of Audiology program at the University of Southern Florida.
Department of Economics
Michael Pesko is a health economist and a Research Fellow with the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA). He uses retrospectively collected data and quasi-experimental methods to evaluate health policy changes and is particularly interested in policy changes affecting the use of e-cigarettes (see: e-cigarette research summary).
Pesko has published more than 50 peer-reviewed papers in top health economics, health policy and labor economics journals. His research has been supported by externally generated funds exceeding $4.5 million since 2016, including from the National Institutes of Health and American Cancer Society.