Will Florida require insurance companies to cover hearing aids for children? – The Famuan
A health care bill has been proposed by State Representatives Chuck Brannan, R-Suwannee, and Ardian Zika, R-Pasco, in the Florida House of Representatives.
HB 79 will require private health insurance companies to cover the costs of hearing aids for children up to age 21. A similar bill, SB 498, in the Florida Senate lowers the age requirements to include only children 18 or younger.
A subcommittee hearing was held on February 16, where both Brannan and Zika shared the logistics of their bill.
“Untreated pediatric hearing loss costs Florida taxpayers a minimum of $420,000 and that’s just for special education per child — and likely well over $1 million over their lifetime,” Brannan said. .
Brannan said it’s a burden on poor and working-class families to get hearing aids for their children. This bill would provide more accessibility to families struggling with the cost of hearing aids.
Three million children in the United States have some type of hearing loss. Hearing aids can be very expensive and many Americans cannot afford them.
Most people with hearing loss need two hearing aids, and most insurers don’t cover the cost. The high price is often a barrier to getting needed help and relief, but it doesn’t have to be.
The costs of pediatric hearing aids vary depending on the device and the level of technology. Typically, costs range from $1,000 to $6,000 per pair. The two main factors affecting the cost of hearing aids are the features and professional services associated with the selection, fitting, adjustments and maintenance of the device.
Twenty-three states require health insurance companies to provide full or partial hearing aid coverage for children.
Terri Fisk, president of the Florida Coalition of Spoken Language Volunteer Parents, says there is strong research that shows the medical necessity of hearing aids, but insurance companies haven’t caught up yet.
“We have this problem where some families are making too much money to be on Medicaid, [because Medicaid covers it]”, Fisk said. “But they’re not rich enough to pay $7,000 out of pocket for a pair of hearing aids for their kids and they’re kind of not eligible for financial aid either, so it’s really is a battle.”
Children have a developmental window or “window of opportunity” in which they quickly absorb important skills and information. Children with hearing complications may miss important information if they cannot access a hearing aid. Once the window is closed, it is more difficult for children to learn certain skills which can lead to a drop in performance. In fact, children who don’t get pediatric hearing aids before middle school can be 2 to 4 years behind, according to education experts.
Romy Tuggle, special needs coordinator at Achieve Academy, says kids who don’t get a hearing aid early on can have performance and self-esteem issues.
“A lot of kids who can’t fully participate in a lesson can become a behavioral problem, which is just how much hearing loss can really affect a child’s education,” Tuggle said. “But a hearing aid isn’t just about school, it’s about a teenager’s opportunity to get a job, it’s about relationship building, self-image – hearing is really important to how a person sees themselves.”
Many children with special needs can stay in school until they are 22n/a birthday.
The bill was added to the Appropriations Committee agenda on Friday, February 18.