TAMPA, Fla – Brooke Christofides says it was “devastating” for her and her husband to learn shortly after the birth of her daughter Eliana that she had been diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss. But there was added shock when she learned that they would have to pay around $ 7,000 out of pocket for hearing aids for Eliana because their insurer didn’t offer them such coverage.
“When the time comes, you think it will be fully covered for her to have these hearing aids that are medically necessary for her to hear,” Christofides told Spectrum Bay News 9 Tuesday. “And you find out they’re not covered. And it’s just a little heartbreaking and you have to figure out what you’re going to do.
What would you like to know
- Legislation was introduced (at Florida House by Pasco County Republican Ardian Zika) that would require health insurance providers to extend hearing aid coverage to children.
- Similar bills have been introduced in Tallahassee in recent years, but none have been approved.
- About 24 states across the country have adopted such legislation.
This dilemma for such parents would be a thing of the past if a bill co-sponsored at Florida House by Pasco County Republican Ardian Zika (HB 79) passes through the Legislative Assembly this session. The proposal would require an individual health insurance policy or HMO contract to provide hearing aids coverage for people 21 and under who have been diagnosed with hearing loss by a licensed physician or licensed audiologist. Policies would be required to provide a minimum coverage limit of $ 3,500 per ear over a two-year period.
About half of the country’s states (24) mandate health insurance plans to cover hearing aids for children. These requirements range from authorization to cover a hearing aid every two years to every five years. Some of these states have caps on the amount insurers must pay, ranging from $ 1,000 to $ 4,000.
Similar bills have been introduced in the Legislative Assembly since 2018, but have not moved in the Lower House.
“We had tremendous support in the Senate. Our struggle has been heard in the House, ”said Terri Fisk, chair of the Florida Coalition for Spoken Language Options. “We know we have a lot of support from representatives in the House, both for this bill and children in general. So we are really useful that the management of the Chamber allows him to have a hearing in this chamber. “
Fisk says Medicaid, TRICARE, and some private health insurance companies provide such coverage in Florida. She says if the bill is passed and signed by Governor DeSantis, about 460 children in the state will have immediate access to hearing aids.
The companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley (the other co-sponsor of the House bill is Republican Chuck Brannan), and will be heard on Wednesday morning by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
Christofides says hearing aids need to be replaced every three to five years, so unless the law changes soon, her family will again have to dig deep to support her daughter.
“We are facing an expense of around $ 5,000 to $ 7,000 when it comes time for her to purchase new hearing aids,” she says. “It is therefore an expense that we must plan for throughout his life. Every three to five years.
Christofides commends the Legislative Assembly for its financial support for high quality hearing and oral programs that provide a variety of services to children with hearing loss. “[Eliana] is able to listen and speak, and we are truly grateful that these services have helped her. She excelled because of it, ”she says. “But on top of that, for these services to be beneficial, she needs to have access to sound. And that requires hearing aids.