Last week, I testified on behalf on House Bill 910, An Act to provide coverage for hearing aids for children, which I filed at the beginning of the session along with 22 or my colleagues. Since the hearing we have received dozens of emails from supporters of the bill. I would also like to thank Lisa Adams and everyone with the Massachusetts Hearing Aids for Children coalition for all their great work in supporting this bill and coming to the hearing.
Below is an excerpt from my testimony at Wednesday’s hearing.
“Chairman Buoniconti, Chairman Koutoujian, and Members of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, I want to thank you all for the opportunity to testify in strong support of House Bill 910, An Act to provide coverage for hearing aids for children. Hearing loss is the most common birth defect in the U.S., affecting three in every 1,000 newborns annually. Experts agree that hearing is critical for speech development, cognitive development, social and emotional well-being and academic achievement. According to records kept by the Department of Public Health, approximately 200 out of 80,000 babies are born with a hearing loss in the Commonwealth each year and approximately 150 of those children require hearing aids.
For most of the children impacted by hearing loss, the use of quality aids can significantly improve the ability to hear. Access to hearing aids is the critical component to this equation. We know hundreds of children in the Commonwealth are born with hearing loss each year and that we have the technology to give these children a better life; insurance companies are denying this coverage to Massachusetts families who are forced to pay $2,000 out of pocket if they want their child to develop at the same level as their hearing peers. At least fifteen other states in the U.S. require insurers to cover at least some of the costs associated with hearing aids for children. I feel it is essential we do the same.
Chapter 111, Section 67F of the Massachusetts General Laws requires newborns to have a hearing screening administered before leaving the hospital. A goal of these newborn hearing screenings is long-term cost savings because early identification results in improved language abilities, lower educational and vocational costs, and increased lifetime productivity. These screenings provide families with invaluable information about the health of the child but once hearing loss is detected there is no support for paying the costs of hearing aids. This bill would change that.
I am urging the chairs and members of the committee to give House Bill 910 a thorough evaluation and release a bill that serves the best interests of families in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mandating coverage of these hearing aids will lift a financial burden to hundreds of Massachusetts families and give their children unlimited opportunities.”