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Proposed Ohio legislation seeks to expand health insurance coverage for children’s hearing aids

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Posted at 2:24 PM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 15:39:16-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio  — Madeline Rohlin was diagnosed with hearing loss when she was 2. Her parents, both doctors, were astounded when they found out they had to pay $5,000 out of pocket for their daughter's hearing aids because they are considered cosmetic.

“I remember crying on the phone with the health insurance company as the agent explained hearing aids were considered cosmetic devices. And I remember asking ‘What 2-year-old would choose to wear hearing aids as a cosmetic device?’,” said Madeline's mother, Nadia Greenhalgh-Stanley. “It was shocking that something so developmentally necessary for a child to learn and communicate is treated the same as botox or plastic surgery.”

State representatives introduced legislation that would require health insurance to cover some of the cost of children's hearing aids until age 21. A press conference announcing House Bill 198 was held Tuesday at the Ohio statehouse in Columbus.

Madeline’s Law would require insurers to cover up to $2,500 per ear for hearing aids every two years.

Co-sponsors Reps. Allison Russo, a Democrat from Upper Arlington, and Susan Manchester, a Republican from Waynesfield, were joined by Rep. Casey Weinstein, a Democrat from Hudson, to speak in favor of the bill at Tuesday's press conference.

Russo spoke about how untreated hearing loss can negatively impact children, a sentiment echoed by audiologist Dr. Carrie Spangler, who also attended the press conference.

“Hearing is the foundation for listening, for spoken language, for reading, for writing, and for overall academics," Spangler said. "And what hearing loss does is hearing loss distorts and smears that incoming signal which is going to negatively impact how a child or an individual accesses listening, spoken language, reading, writing, and overall academics.”

Untreated hearing loss also costs the state around $400,000 in special needs education per child, Weinstein said.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 24 states have laws that mandate insurance coverage of hearing aids. Among these states are Kentucky, which Ohio’s law was partially modeled after.

Madeline’s Law has only received opposition from insurance companies, which often object to coverage expansions, Russo said.