Although the Health Ministry may have had good intentions in helping the deaf
and hearing impaired to get hearing aids at reduced prices, the arrangements it
made have things worse, according to MK David Azoulay (Shas), chairman of the
Knesset Public Petitions Committee.
Azoulay charged on Wednesday that new
ministry directives have “made the lives of the hearing impaired miserable,
increasing the amount of bureaucracy, harming their privacy and embarrassing
them. The state subsidy for the devices caused manufacturers and importers to
hike their prices,” the MK maintained.
In October 2011, the ministry
issued new procedures for people over 65 to buy subsidized hearing aids. It
announced that over a period of three years, elderly people who needed them
would receive NIS 3,000 instead of the previous NIS 851 for hearing aids for
each ear. But to get the subsidy, “people now have to run from one office to
another, answer insulting questionnaires, undergo superfluous tests and wait
long periods – even four months or more – to obtain the money. According to the
procedures, the whole process should take no more than 60 days to get the
subsidy,” Azoulay said.
In addition, there are not enough hearing
institutes for testing, and the queues are very long for those who must prove
they are entitled to get subsidization, he said.
Azoulay demanded that
the ministry appoint a clinical communication specialist to speed up tenders to
run hearing institutes in the health funds, and reconsider the requirement of
filling out the questionnaires so they do not intrude on privacy. He also
demanded a restoration of the old procedures on people aged 18 to 65, who in any
case are not eligible for the higher subsidies, and to make it possible for
those who received hearing aids in the past to receive them three years later
without the need to start the whole application procedure again.
Tepper Haver-Tov, from the ministry’s branch for supervising the health funds
and supplementary health insurance, said a tender for a communication specialist
has been completed, and candidates are now being heard by a tender board. Soon,
she said, a person will be selected to fill the post. She conceded that higher
ministry subsidies have led to the hikes in prices by the companies that sell
the hearing aids. In addition, she agreed to consider changes in the
Among the questions on the new forms, which were
presented to the MKs at the session, were: “Do you go to restaurants?”
Applicants are afraid to answer because they think that if they write “yes,”
they will be regarded as “too wealthy to get subsidies.” A professional
organization of communication specialists said all the red tape was unnecessary,
as the ability to hear in people who were already using hearing aids does not
get better but only worse.
An 88-year-old hearing-impaired man who
attended the Knesset committee session said it was hard for him to make
appointments by phone at a health fund hearing institute, as staffers answer the
phone infrequently and the lines are often busy. When he did reach a clinic's
phone in November 2011, he was told that the earliest he could come in for a
test was in March 2012 in a Petah Tikva hospital, even though he lives in Tel
Aviv. When he arrived at the clinic for an examination, only his documents were
checked, but he was not given a hearing test, he said.
spokeswoman said on Thursday that due to the growing need for hearing aids among
the elderly, it raised the subsidies and cannot be blamed for the companies’
hiking of prices. “Very few complaints” have been received by the ministry
ombudsman relating to the service, she said.