By Angela Hart

Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to fund hearing aids for children and teens through California’s budget, months after he asked a Democratic assemblyman to withdraw legislation with a similar aim.

Newsom’s budget proposal would create a new state program to provide hearing aids for low- and middle-income people under age 18 if their existing insurance doesn’t cover them, according to Newsom’s Finance Director Keely Bosler. The governor’s plan would cost an estimated $10 million per year from the state general fund, she said.

The budget proposal would provide the benefit for families earning up to 600 percent of federal poverty, which is $127,980 for a family of three and $154,500 for a family of four. It would not create a new mandate for health plans, Bosler said.

Funding for the program could also be used to help offset coverage costs for families enrolled in high-deductible health insurance plans that do cover hearing aids, but have significant cost-sharing requirements.

It would be available no sooner than July 2021 and does not apply to Medi-Cal, which already covers the hearing aid benefit.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) pushed for the hearing aid benefit expansion through CA AB598 (19R), but withdrew the legislation late last year after receiving a commitment from the governor to include the policy in the budget. His proposal, however, would have require health plans to cover the benefit — a mandate they opposed.