COLUMBUS- State Reps. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), Susan Manchester (R-Waynesfield) and Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) today announced the introduction of House Bill (HB) 198, or “Madeline’s Law” during a virtual press conference. Introduced as House Bill 243 in the 133rd General Assembly, “Madeline’s Law” is a bipartisan bill that would expand health insurance coverage to include hearing aids for children up to the age of 21.
The lawmakers were joined by several constituents from their districts and other parts of Ohio, all of whom shared their personal experiences regarding hearing loss, hearing aid coverage and accessibility, and the impact Madeline’s Law would have on their daily lives.
“We know that hearing is critical to a child’s development and learning,” said Rep. Russo. “Without consistent, quality sound input to help children develop those vital brain pathways for hearing, speech, and other cognitive functions, children can fall drastically behind. Over time, this can eventually impact their education, even their job prospects. Many insurance companies in Ohio currently consider children’s hearing aids to be elective, cosmetic devices, when the reality clearly demonstrates that hearing aids are necessary medical devices. Until Ohio recognizes this and expands health insurance coverage to include children’s hearing aids, Ohio’s children will not be able to develop to their full potential.”
Rep. Manchester stated, “By providing coverage to hearing aids and related services for individuals twenty-one years of age and under, House Bill 198 removes financial barriers to a child’s ability to learn, grow and develop.”
“Hearing is the foundation not just for listening, but reading, writing, and spoken language. It is insulting that health insurers currently equate a child’s right to hear with an adult’s desire for Botox,” said Rep. Weinstein. “After two years of advocacy, I am excited to see Madeline’s Law reintroduced and will do everything I can to see this legislation passed into law.”
Under the bill, health insurance plans would be required to cover up to $2,500 per hearing aid per hearing impaired ear every 48 months. Research demonstrates that children with late or no intervention cost the state more than $400,000 per child in special education costs by the time they graduate high school. Ohio requires hearing screenings at birth, and parents often discover the exclusion of children’s hearing aid coverage by health insurance plans when early intervention begins. Currently, 24 other states have passed similar legislation requiring hearing aid coverage for children.