Listening to the calls for hearing aid reform
Reducing restrictive regulation could allow for Montanans to reap the benefits of lower hearing aid costs and provide greater access to rural communities.
“Whenever we impose one-source decisions for millions of decisions made independently…we get chaos…And…freedom must disappear as we practice the error!” – Leonard Read
For many Americans the simple act of hearing a conversation isn’t so simple. More than 37 million Americans report having “some degree of hearing loss,” but only a fifth of them have ever used a hearing aid. A 2019 study found that one of the leading factors limiting access to hearing aids is the cost, which can range anywhere from $1000 to $6000 for each device.
In an effort to make hearing aids more affordable the FDA announced a rule change which would make some hearing aids available over-the-counter. This change would increase competition, helping to reduce costs and increase access to the devices. Over-the-counter hearing aids will also be available online, allowing for rural communities to have the same access to the life changing technology as those in cities.
Millions of Americans will quickly see the benefits of the reduction of red-tape, but Montanans may not be so lucky. Montana law regulates who can sell, dispense or fit a hearing aid through licensing requirements. Hearing aids have been regulated by the FDA “as prescription medical devices — an arrangement that adds to the cost and effort people must expend to get them.” While the new FDA rules would allow for OTC hearing aids to be sold, Montana law still regulates who can sell or dispense hearing aids, limiting the potential for cost reduction and increased access for the technology in the state.
Montana’s regulatory requirements on who can sell and dispense hearing aids is yet another example of how well intentioned regulations can cause harm to those they are hoping to protect. Reducing restrictive regulation could allow for Montanans to reap the benefits of lower hearing aid costs and provide greater access to rural communities. Reforming Montana’s hearing aid regulations is one way lawmakers can roll back harmful regulations, but legislators will need a comprehensive approach to reducing burdensome regulations if they wish to prevent excessive regulations from getting out of control again.
NBC-Helena highlighted how parents across Montana are moving their children from public schools and into home school programs. During the 2018-2019 school year 5,743 kids were homeschooled in Montana, that number increased to 9,868 during the 2020-2021 school year.
Our Take: The increase in homeschooling is the latest example of how Montana parents are looking for new ways to provide a better education for their children. Many children learn differently, calling into question a one-size-fits-all approach to education. Parents are usually the first to acknowledge how each of their own children faces different obstacles and have different interests that excite them. We should encourage more educational opportunities so that every Montana student can have a high quality, personalized learning experience.
Bringing Medical Access to Montanans
A new program is hoping to attract healthcare workers to Montana by paying them up to $12,500 to relocate to Montana using leftover American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Scott Mendenhall, the state’s director of ARPA funds explained how Montana already had an issue of trying to find and keep health care workers, and now with the pandemic it’s taken it up a notch.”
Our Take: With the entire state of Montana having been “designated as medically underserved in some way,” efforts to attract healthcare workers make sense; however, there are still regulatory hurdles that need to be cleared for those wishing to move their practice to Montana. Montana does not universally recognize medical licenses for healthcare professionals, meaning that some healthcare professionals hoping to practice in Montana would need to go through a lengthy licensing process, potentially impacting their decision to relocate. In order to successfully attract new healthcare workers, Montana leaders should also explore ways to reduce regulatory licensing burdens.
Housing Costs Rise Across the State
Rising housing costs were once thought to be isolated to popular towns like Missoula and Bozeman, but that is no longer the case. Recent articles have highlighted increases in the cost of housing in both Ravalli County and Sanders County. In this year’s County Housing Need Assessment Survey, Sanders County found a majority of residents and businesses felt that housing costs were too high and supply was too low.
Our Take: These articles underscore how many Montana communities are seeing a shortage in middle housing, which is contributing to higher housing costs. Local zoning laws create barriers to building affordable housing by implementing regulations that limit housing supply through restrictions on “maximum densities, minimum lot sizes, setback, lot coverage and high parking requirements.” Reducing restrictive regulations on housing is one way to alleviate the supply shortage and help Montana communities struggling with rising housing costs.