Thursday, 30 May 2019
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Treatment Benefit Scheme
21. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will review the hearing aid grant available under the treatment benefit fund in view of the health inequality when it comes to the affordability of hearing aids for those without a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23004/19]
The Department’s Medical Appliance scheme, which provides grants to assist in the purchase of hearing aids, is available to those who have the required number of PRSI contributions and their dependant spouse / partners. The numbers claiming under the scheme over recent years and the payments made by my Department bear testimony to the important contribution the scheme is making for PRSI contributors and their dependant spouse/partners who are experiencing hearing loss.
In 2018, some 14,689 grants, at a cost of €12.74m were provided; this represents a 53% increase in the number of grants provided since 2016 and a 95% increase since 2009. The increase in 2018 over 2016 is due in large part to the extension of the scheme to the self-employed for the first time in March 2017.
The grant available under the Treatment Benefit scheme covered approximately 30% of the cost of the average hearing aid supplied under the scheme and is a valuable assistance to those who need it. The Department regularly reviews the variety of devices and price ranges on the market to ensure the grant amount reflects the cost of hearing aids.
The parallel HSE scheme provides digital hearing aids, at no cost to the customer, and is available to those of all ages with medical card eligibility, which would include the vast majority of the over 70’s age group.
Any increase in the grant or variation in the percentage contribution towards hearing aids can only be considered in the overall budgetary context.