HB 243 would require health insurance coverage of hearing aids for children

COLUMBUS— State Reps. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) recently introduced House Bill (HB) 243 titled “Madeline’s Law”, new legislation with bipartisan support that requires Ohio insurance companies to cover a portion of the cost of hearing aids for children.

“For young children with hearing loss, early intervention is crucial for speech and language development,” said Rep. Russo. “This legislation supports early intervention by ensuring families have the insurance coverage necessary to afford hearing aids for their children.”

Under current Ohio law, hearing aids are often considered a “cosmetic device” like plastic surgery or liposuction, exempting them from health insurance benefit coverage. Modeled after similar legislation in Kentucky and 22 other states, HB 243 would require coverage for hearing aids up to $1,400 every 36 months for individuals up to 22 years of age who are insured.

“When constituents approached me with their struggles to afford their young daughter’s hearing aids due to the lack of coverage, I knew this was something that had to be addressed head on,” said Rep. Weinstein. “The legislature has an obligation to ensure the success of future generations, regardless of any pre-existing conditions, and we are currently failing to do that for hearing-impaired kids here in Ohio.”

Research shows that detection and intervention for hearing loss prior to six months of age results in significantly better outcomes than intervention later in life. As a result, newborn hearing screening has become universal in hospitals across the United States, and children with hearing loss are being identified and treated at much younger ages.

By the time a child with hearing loss graduates high school, the Governmental Policy Group reports more than $400,000 per child can be saved in special education costs if the child is identified early and provided appropriate medical, audio-logical and educational services. In addition, without healthcare insurance coverage, hearing aids can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $6,000 in out of pocket expenses.