Hearing aid coverage for children advanced

Lawmakers gave first-round approval April 3 to a bill that would require most health insurance plans to pay for hearing aids for young Nebraskans.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist03' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Carol Blood'>Sen. Carol Blood</a>
Sen. Carol Blood

LB15, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, would adopt the Children of Nebraska Hearing Aid Act. The bill would require most health plans to cover expenses associated with hearing aids for Nebraskans younger than 19, including evaluation, fitting, programming, repairs and auditory rehabilitation and training.

Many insurance companies consider insertion of hearing aids to be an elective procedure, Blood said, but for Nebraska children with a hearing impairment, a hearing aid is a lifeline.

Blood, who was deaf as a child, said the $1,500 to $3,000 cost of hearing aids is unaffordable for many families. Without access to hearing aids, children’s quality of life can be impacted severely, she said.

“Hearing empowers us,” Blood said. “It helps us lead our everyday lives without limitations. It provides us with the ability to socialize, work and communicate.”

Small-business group health plans would be exempt from the bill’s provisions. Insurance companies that could show that expenses associated with hearing aids would exceed one percent of premium dollars collected per year would be exempt for one plan year.

LB15 also would cap covered expenses at $3,000 over four years and would take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

A Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee amendment, adopted 39-0, would define a hearing impairment as an impairment diagnosed by an otolaryngologist with an auditory assessment completed by a licensed audiologist.

The amendment also would require that a hearing aid be purchased from a licensed audiologist with medical clearance from an otolaryngologist in order to be covered.

Following adoption of the committee amendment, the bill advanced to select file on a 39-0 vote.

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