Governor Deval Patrick today hosted a ceremonial bill signing for "An Act Providing Hearing Aids to Children," mandating insurance companies cover hearing aids for children until the age of 21. Working families with children diagnosed with hearing loss will now be eligible to save thousands of dollars a year in the cost of hearing aids.
"We are making health care as affordable as it is accessible in Massachusetts," said Governor Patrick. "This legislation will save working families money and provide children with the care they need."
"This new law will lift a large financial burden to hundreds of families and make an everlasting difference for children with hearing loss throughout the Commonwealth," said Representative Sean Garballey, sponsor of the bill.
The legislation signed by the Governor mandates coverage for one hearing aid per ear every 36 months upon a written statement of medical necessity by the child's treating physician. The bill also requires coverage for all related services prescribed by a licensed audiologist or hearing instrument specialist, including an initial evaluation, fitting and adjustments and related supplies, including ear molds and batteries.
In 1998, Massachusetts mandated hearing screenings for all newborns born in the Commonwealth before leaving a hospital or birth center. Once hearing loss is diagnosed, families are expected to pay out-of-pocket for hearing aids for their children, which cost upwards of $2,000 each and must be replaced every three to five years.
Hearing loss occurs in approximately three out of every 1,000 births in the United States. Of the 80,000 babies born annually in Massachusetts, on average, 200 are identified with having some degree of hearing loss, and of those, approximately 150 are candidates for hearing aids.