Proposal would make insurance companies pay for hearing aids

TAMPA, Fla. – Brooke Christofides says it was “devastating” for her and her husband to learn shortly after the birth of her daughter Eliana that she had been diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss. But there was an added shock when she learned they would have to pay around $7,000 out of pocket for Eliana’s hearing aids because their insurance company didn’t provide such coverage.

“When the time comes, you think it will be fully covered for her to have these hearing aids that are medically necessary for her to hear,” Christofides told Spectrum Bay News 9 on Tuesday. “And you find out they’re not covered. And it’s just kind of heartbreaking and you have to figure out what you’re going to do.

What do you want to know

  • Legislation has been introduced (at the Florida House by Pasco County Republican Ardian Zika) that would require health insurance providers to extend hearing aid coverage to children.
  • Similar bills have been introduced in recent years in Tallahassee, but none have been approved.
  • About 24 states in the country have passed such legislation.

This dilemma for these parents would be a thing of the past if a bill were co-sponsored in the Florida House by Pasco County Republican Ardian Zika (HB 79) is going through the Legislative Assembly this session. The proposal would require an individual health insurance policy or HMO contract to provide hearing aids to people 21 and under who have been diagnosed with hearing loss by a licensed physician or licensed audiologist. Policies would be required to provide a minimum coverage limit of $3,500 per ear over a two-year period.

About half of the states in the country (24) compel health insurance plans to cover hearing aids for children. These requirements range from allowing coverage for a hearing aid every two years to every five years. Some of these states include caps on the amount insurers must pay, ranging from $1,000 to $4,000.

Similar bills have been tabled in the Legislative Assembly since 2018, but have not moved in the lower house.

“We received tremendous support in the Senate. Our struggle has been to get a hearing in the House,” said Terri Fisk, president of the Florida Coalition for Spoken Language Options. “We know we have a lot of support from representatives in the House, both for this bill and for children in general. So we are very helpful that the leadership of the House allows him to have a hearing in this chamber.

Fisk says Medicaid, TRICARE, and some private health insurance companies provide such coverage in Florida. She says if the bill is passed and signed by Governor DeSantis, about 460 children in the state would have immediate access to hearing aids.

The companion Senate bill is sponsored by Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley (the House bill’s other co-sponsor is Republican Chuck Brannan), and it will get a hearing at the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Wednesday morning.

Christofides says hearing aids need to be replaced every three to five years, so unless the law changes soon, her family will once again have to dig deep to provide for her daughter.

“We’re facing an expense of about $5,000 to $7,000 when it comes time for her to buy new hearing aids,” she says. “So it’s an expense that we have to plan for throughout his life. Every three to five years.

Christofides commends the Legislative Assembly for its financial support of high-quality hearing-oral programs that provide a variety of services to children with hearing loss. “[Eliana] is able to listen and speak, and we are truly grateful that these services have helped her. She excels because of it,” she says. “But on top of that, for these services to be beneficial, she needs to have access to sound. And that requires hearing aids.

Kristan F. Talley