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What You Need to Know About Insurance Coverage for Hearing Aids

Nearly every state in the U.S. requires newborns to be screened for hearing loss prior to discharge from the hospital.

Written By: Joni Alberg

Nearly every state in the U.S. requires newborns to be screened for hearing loss prior to discharge from the hospital. A majority of evidence has shown that early identification and intervention for children who are deaf and hard of hearing has a profound effect on their ability to understand and use language. With early identification and intervention, children with hearing loss will be ready to enter kindergarten on par with their hearing peers. There are many resources available online for you related to hearing aids.

Most children with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids, which provide children with consistent and critical sound input. When fit early and appropriately, hearing aids allow children to develop the brain pathways for hearing, speech and language development.

Unfortunately, the cost of hearing aids for children is significant—on average, a pair of hearing aids cost between $5,000 and $6,000. This cost can be prohibitive to many parents who cannot afford them and whose insurance may not cover the cost. Fortunately, for parents living in 24 states, legislation has been enacted requiring insurance providers to cover the cost of hearing aids for children under the age of 21. This includes not only hearing aids but also hearing aid fittings, ear molds and, in some cases, batteries.

In addition to the 24 states that have already enacted legislation, 12 states currently have hearing aid insurance bills moving through the legislative process. AG Bell looks forward to the day when all 50 states and the District of Columbia have insurance coverage for children’s hearing aids.

Do Insurance Laws Mean All Children Are Covered?

While insurance coverage is a relief for many parents, not all insurance is created equal. State laws can only apply to insurance providers that are based in the state where the law is passed. For example, North Carolina insurance coverage for children’s hearing aids applies only to North Carolina-based providers. The law does not apply to businesses that provide health benefits from insurers based outside of the state. It also does not apply to any self-insured businesses, which is the case for many local city and county governments, as well as for privately owned companies. Federal law prohibits insurance mandates for self-insured businesses.

There are some exceptions. You may be able to require your state employees’ health plan to provide hearing aid coverage, even if it is a self-insured plan. This plan was included in the North Carolina law and was a huge addition since the state government of North Carolina is the largest employer there.

Take Action

If you live in a state that does not require insurance coverage for children’s hearing aids, it is time for you to make your voice heard. Elected state officials need to hear from you about why insurance coverage is important to you. As a parent, you can tell them about the financial impact that hearing aids and related services has on your family. As a professional, you can tell them about the children you serve who significantly benefit from wearing hearing aids and how their parents need help to pay for them.

If your state has legislation pending, call, write a letter and/or send an email to your elected state officials and ask them to vote “YES” for hearing aid insurance coverage for children. Most legislators count the number of contacts they receive in support of/or against a bill. Your voice makes a difference!

Sample Letters/Email Content

Letters and emails to legislators do not have to be lengthy. In fact, the shorter the better, but be sure to include the following information:

Sample Letter From a Parent or Caregiver

Dear Senator/Representative/Assembly person [Name],

I am writing to ask you to vote YES on [insert the bill number]. My son/daughter, [Name], was diagnosed with a [Moderate/Severe/Etc.] hearing loss when he/she was 4 weeks old. [Tell your story briefly here—When he/she received hearing aids; how much they cost; how you paid for them; why the hearing aids are important].

Once again, I ask you to please support the passage of [Insert bill number]. Thank you for all you do for the citizens of [State].

Sincerely,

[Your name and phone number/email address]

Sample Letter From a Professional

Dear Senator/Representative/Assembly person [Name],

I am writing to ask you to vote YES on [insert the bill number]. I am a [Teacher/speech language therapist/ physician/etc.], and I work with/as [Describe your setting and work]. [Tell your story briefly here—How important hearing aids are for the children with whom you work; how some parents cannot afford them, the outcomes children achieve when they have hearing aids compared to those who do not.] This important legislation will ensure that ALL children in [State] have the opportunity to acquire language and literacy, and experience academic and life success.

Once again, I ask you to please support the passage of [Insert bill number]. Thank you for all you do for the citizens of [State].

Sincerely,

[Your name and phone number/email address]

(Originally published in Volta Voices, Volume 26, Issue 3, July-September 2019)

Joni Alberg: PH.D., AG Bell Public Policy Consultant

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