SACRAMENTO – Today, legislation to expand insurance coverage for children’s hearing aids passed the Senate Health Committee. The measure, introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D – Santa Monica), would require health insurance plans to provide coverage for hearing aids and hearing aid services for children under 18 years of age.
“For middle-class families, the expense of hearing aids are a heavy burden for parents seeking to obtain them for their children,” said Assemblymember Bloom. “Families should not be forced to forego hearing aids for their children or postpone services because they are unable to afford their children’s hearing care.
All newborns in California receive a hearing status screening through the California Newborn Hearing Screening Program. Yet upon finding out their child’s hearing status, parents of deaf and hard of hearing children are often stunned to find out that interventions and related services are not covered by their health insurance. Only one in ten children in privately funded plans has coverage for hearing aids and hearing aid services, leaving over eight thousand children without any kind of health insurance coverage for their devices.
Thousands of families are forced to pay the full cost of hearing aids, which cost, on average, between $3,000 and $8,000 per pair. Hearing aids are replaced frequently on growing children (a new replacement every three to five years), causing the cost of these devices to spiral over even a few years. According to the California Health Benefits Review Program, an estimated 195 children in need of hearing aids do not have them simply because their families cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs. For many other families, lack of insurance coverage may mean they have to postpone their child’s hearing aid maintenance, fittings, adjustments, or audiologist visits.
Deaf or hard of hearing children often benefit the most from multi-sensory approaches to learning that incorporate both visual and spoken language; without access to hearing aids, these children are deprived of an important tool for language development. Additionally, classrooms can often be equipped with assistive learning device systems, such as FM systems, but if a child does not have a hearing aid, they cannot benefit from these systems.
“AB 598 is not just about health equity. It’s also about education equity and making sure that deaf and hard of hearing children have all the tools they need to live healthy and productive lives. ”
AB 598 now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Richard Bloom represents California’s 50th Assembly District, which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.