In a historic moment for California’s deaf and hard-of-hearing community, legislators unanimously passed the Let California Kids Hear Act. SB 635 (Menjivar – Portantino), which would mandate insurance coverage for children’s hearing aids, now heads to Governor Newsom’s desk to become law.
“We are immensely grateful to Senator Menjivar and Senator Portantino for championing this issue impacting thousands of children across California,” said Let California Kids Hear co-founder Michelle Marciniak. “The overwhelming bipartisan support demonstrates legislators on both sides of the aisle recognize that this is a developmental emergency that must be addressed now.”
“Since the California Newborn Hearing Screening Program was established, there have been multiple attempts over the years to address the developmental emergency of pediatric hearing loss,” said bill co-author Senator Caroline Menjivar (D – San Fernando Valley). “Now, SB 635 has the opportunity to give California’s deaf and hard-of-hearing children the equitable access to hearing aids that are an absolute necessity for their development and futures. I know Governor Newsom cares for our children, and I respectfully urge him to Let California Kids Hear by signing SB 635.”
SB 635 was co-sponsored by the parent-led volunteer coalition Let California Kids Hear and Children Now, a non-profit organization.
“It’s time to let California kids hear and ensure that more families have access to affordable and comprehensive health care and coverage that meets their children’s needs,” said Mike Odeh, Senior Director of Health at Children Now.
Currently, just one in ten health plans in California cover hearing aids. More than 30 U.S. states already mandate coverage through a commercial mandate and/or the state exchange, including most southern states, but not in California. Hearing aids cost on average $6,000, every four years, meaning some families are left with an impossible choice, between paying rent or trying to afford hearing aids for their children.
“This bill will remove affordability barriers for families so children can meet their developmental milestones and will contribute greatly to the wellbeing of our kids,” added Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank).
“This is a health equity issue that begins at birth,” Marciniak said. “Every child deserves the opportunity to thrive, to connect with the world around them – and for hard-of-hearing children, that starts with access to sound.”
Children, parents, doctors, and advocates packed committee rooms, sending a clear message to legislators that it’s time to let California’s kids hear. SB 635 passed the Legislature with unanimous support. Governor Newsom has 30 days to sign the bill.
“This is a moment many years in the making, and it wouldn’t be possible without the tireless advocacy of families, doctors and medical organizations. We are so grateful for this community,” Marciniak said. “Governor Newsom, we respectfully urge you to sign SB 635 that would provide access to 20,000 children to hear and connect with their world to reach their full potential and secure a brighter future in California. Our children are counting on you to do the right thing.”
About Let California Kids Hear
Let California Kids Hear is a volunteer coalition whose mission is to ensure deaf and hard of hearing children have timely access to affordable hearing aids and pediatric specialists, enabling children to meet their developmental milestones and access instruction in the classroom.
About Children Now
Children Now is a non-partisan, whole-child research, policy development and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health, education and well-being in California. The organization also leads The Children’s Movement of California, a network of over 5,000 direct service, parent, youth, civil rights, faith-based and community groups dedicated to improving children’s well-being.