OLYMPIA—Twenty percent of adult Washingtonians experience some degree of hearing loss, that’s five percent higher than the national average, and two out of 1000 children nationally are born with a hearing disorder. Despite these statistics, hearing aids are not covered by health insurance plans in Washington state. This could change if a measure passed by the House on an 89-8 vote earlier today is also approved by the Senate.
“We know that hearing loss can lead to isolation, anxiety, and depression, and for children it can also impact their learning and slow the development of social skills. But hearing devices do work in most cases, making it possible for students to rebound and adults to thrive,” said Rep. Tina Orwall, prime sponsor of House Bill 1222. “With this bill we will have the ability to make sure every child reaches their potential, and every adult can have a fuller, more successful life.”
In her floor remarks, the Des Moines Democrat recalled the impact that a group of kids had on the entire Health Care and Wellness Committee when they delivered compelling testimony on how their lives had improved thanks to the devices that enabled them to hear.
“My name is Hugo. I am in second grade. I really hope that you will pass this bill. Hearing aids are not optional for us. We need them. I can’t hear without my hearing aids. It makes me really sad to know that some kids can’t have them,” said second grader Hugo, who testified along with his mother and his friend, Gus.
The bill requires large group health plans to provide coverage for hearing instruments as well as the assessments needed to access them starting on January 1, 2024. A health carrier may establish a benefit limit of $3,000 per ear. It will also require the Insurance Commissioner to include hearing instruments in any updated essential health benefits benchmark plan.
The bill passed the House Health Care & Wellness Committee on January 22nd and the House Appropriations Committee on February 8th. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Rep. Orwall’s Floor Speech: