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Committee hears public testimony on insurance coverage for hearing aids to children

February 17, 2004
By: Gaurav Ghose
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 936

JEFFERSON CITY - Jody Pacheco, mother of seven-year-old Augustine and five-year-old Wayne, both with a hearing loss, testified Tuesday in favor of a bill aimed at providing insurance coverage for hearing aids to children up to age 19.

Calling hearing impairment "an invisible disability," Pacheco argued before the House Financial Services Committee that it made sound economic sense to provide such a coverage.

"Treatment of hearing loss can significantly reduce the need for more intensive intervention in the child's future," Pacheco said.

"The evidence clearly shows that with proper amplification and appropriate rehabilitation children with hearing loss will require fewer services throughout their lifetimes, attain their optimal potential and grow to lead productive lives and make valuable contributions to society."

Under the bill, an insurance policy would have to cover replacement of a child's hearing aids every three years with a cost limit of $1250 per hearing aid.

Rep. Danielle Moore, R-Fulton, sponsor of the bill, said that passing of the bill makes educational sense.

"Children who cannot hear certainly cannot learn," Moore said.

Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia and a co-sponsor of the bill, said that it was critical because that's when they are forming their language skills, which is essential for their educational and developmental success.

Gary Maienschein, director of government affairs, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Missouri, was the only person to testify in opposition to the bill.

Maienschein said his organization was against any kind of mandated benefits. He was hopeful that some kind of "middle ground" would be found.

"In the past a number of mandated benefits have been changed to reflect the requirements that insurance companies offer," Maienschein said. "And under this coverage the buyer be allowed to decide whether he or she wants to buy that coverage. And also we would suggest that perhaps individual insurers be allowed to be exempted from this."

Graham said that he was hopeful that the bill would pass this year considering they were close to reaching an agreement with some of the health insurance companies to let it pass last year.

The committee took no immediate action on the measure.