Four years ago, a bill aimed at requiring health insurance companies in California to cover hearing aids for children hit a road block when Gov. Gavin Newsom decided not to sign it.
Now, the Let California Children Hear Act is making its way through the capitol once again, and advocates are optimistic the governor will sign it this time around.
One of those advocates is Lodi parent Caprice Shular, whose daughter Avery was diagnosed with a hearing impairment shortly after birth.
Shular added that during hearings in 2019, healthcare representatives spoke in opposition of the bill.
On Tuesday, during the Assembly Committee on Health hearing at the State Capitol, Shular said when the opportunity to speak was provided, no one spoke in opposition.
One of the reasons Newsom opted not to sign the act in 2019, Shular said, was a perceived age discrimination concern, given its aim is to provide hearing age coverage for children.
“It’s not age discriminatory, because there are a ton of states that provide hearing aids just for kids, as well as just for adults,” she said. “So in 2019, when the bill made it through both the Senate and Assembly, and then the governor didn’t sign it, we were shocked.”
Although he didn’t sign the act in 2019, Newsom promised to implement a program that would help California families afford hearing aids. The Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Program launched in 2021, to help families in California with incomes less than 600% of the federal poverty level afford hearing aids for their children.
Shular added that if families were partially covered through health insurance companies, they were ineligible. As a result, only 200 children out of 8,000 were eligible.
“It didn’t work for my family,” she said. “Not a lot of providers participated in the program either. So we’d have to drive really far to see an audiologist.”
Shular said Avery’s hearing aids cost as much as $5,000, and they must be replaced every three to five years.
In addition, the ear molds that are placed inside the hearing aids cost about $180.
According to letkidshear.com, 32 states currently require healthcare providers to cover hearing aids for children, either through mandates, the Affordable Healthcare Act exchange, or both.
During the 2023 legislative cycle Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Washington, along with California are or will be considering legislation to mandate health plans cover hearing aids and services for children.
The bill will head to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Aug. 16, and if approved. will move on to to the Assembly floor.
It will then move on to the state senate, and ultimately, the Governor’s office.
“We have three steps left, and we’re not anticipating the Assembly or Senate will turn it down,” Shular said. “We really hope it will pass this year. It’s been amazing for my kids to be part of the process and be a voice. If it does pass, I’ve been telling them, you’ll be a part of history.”