Kaiser Hearing Treatment Exclusion is Discrimination, Suit Says
11-4-2017 00:00:00

SEATTLE (CN) – Kaiser’s Washington state health plans exclude treatment options for hearing loss, which constitutes disability discrimination according to a class action lawsuit filed in Seattle.

Andrea Schmitt, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, sues Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options Inc.; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., in the Western District of the U.S. District Court.
“By categorically excluding insureds with hearing loss from all medical treatment related to their disability (except for cochlear implants), Kaiser engages in illegal disability discrimination. The Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by covered entities, including health insurers like Kaiser,” Schmitt claims. 
Basic hearing screening tests are not covered under Kaiser’s Washington state plans, Schmitt says, and externally worn and surgically implanted hearing aids, and hearing aid examinations are also excluded, even though similar benefits for other conditions that require “outpatient office visits and durable medical equipment or prosthetic devices” are covered, according to the action.
Kaiser’s blanket exclusion of all hearing loss treatment options except cochlear implants violates Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which specifically prohibits “health benefit designs” that discriminate on the basis of disability, Schmitt says.
As a result, Schmitt says, she and members of the class, have to pay out-of-pocket for costs of medically necessary treatment for their hearing loss, including audiology exams and hearing aids. Those class members who cannot afford to pay for their treatment “have been forced to forgo needed medical treatment due to Kaiser’s conduct,” according to the action.
Schmitt seeks a ruling to prevent Kaiser from applying the blanket hearing loss treatment options exclusion, a judgment for damages and an award to plaintiff and the class for legal costs. 
The plaintiff is represented by Eleanor Hamburger and Richard E. Spoonemore of Sirianni Youzt Spoonemore Hamburger in Seattle, Washington.