Assemblymember Bloom & Advocates Announce Introduction of Hearing Aid Insurance Bill
Measure Seeks to Ensure Health Insurance Coverage for Pediatric Hearing Aids
SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblymember Bloom (D – Santa Monica) announced the introduction of legislation to require health insurance policies and plans to cover hearing aids for children. Bloom was joined by co-authors Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) and Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), as well as advocates and families supporting the bill.
“We are here today because we believe that a child’s ability to hear should not be based on their family’s income,” said Assemblymember Bloom. “Yet here in California, thousands of families have to pay for their child’s hearing aids out of pocket. Some are forced to forego hearing aids altogether while others have to delay maintenance or replacements. I introduced AB 598 because I believe that needs to change.”
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, on average between $1,500 and $4,000 per ear, out of pocket. 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 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 to pay 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.
Access to hearing aids is not just a health access issue, but one of education equity as well. 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.
California currently lags behind the more than twenty other states that currently require insurance coverage for children’s hearing aids.
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.