Lawyers urge California lawmakers to better fund children’s hearing aid program / Public News Service


Groups fighting for children’s rights say they are disappointed that Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget revision in May did not include more money for the children’s hearing aid coverage program. Newsom has proposed about $16 million, but supporters want lawmakers to increase another $5 million in the final budget.

Mike Odeh, senior director of health for the nonprofit Children Now, said hearing loss in babies and toddlers leads to serious delays in speech and learning.

“It’s a developmental issue, and it’s not appropriate for children to be sent to school without the proper supports like hearing aids,” Odeh argued.

At a 2019 legislative hearing, experts testified that only 1 in 10 children in California had hearing aid coverage through a private health plan, and each month behind hearing aid initiation correlates with a decrease in long-term linguistic potential.

The state Department of Health Services estimates that 7,000 low-income children in California need hearing aids, but only about 68 children are actually enrolled.

Odeh pointed out that this is because the program only covers people who have no other insurance options.

“Some children are rejected because they don’t meet the income criteria,” Odeh noted. “And so they would probably be eligible for MediCal, some are rejected because they have partial coverage that provides maybe $500 coverage for hearing aids. But hearing aids are around $6,000 for kids and have to be replaced every three years.

Proponents argued that with more money, the program could be expanded to help families struggling with high copayments and deductibles.

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