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Advocates Press CA Lawmakers to Better Fund Kids' Hearing-Aid Program

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022   

Groups fighting for children's rights say they are disappointed Gov. Gavin Newsom's May budget revision did not include more money for the Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Program. Newsom proposed about $16 million, but advocates want lawmakers to bump it up 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 causes serious delays in speech and learning.

"It's a developmental issue, and it's not appropriate for kids to be sent to school without the appropriate supports like hearing aids," Odeh contended.

At a legislative hearing in 2019, experts testified only 1 in 10 children in California has hearing-aid coverage through a private health plan, and every month of delay in starting hearing aids correlates with decreased long-term language potential.

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

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

"Some kids are getting rejected because they don't meet the income criteria," Odeh noted. "And so they would likely be eligible for MediCal, some are getting rejected because they have partial coverage that maybe provides a $500 benefit of coverage for hearing aids. But hearing aids are about $6,000 for kids and need to be replaced every three years."

Advocates argued with more money, the program could be expanded to help families who struggle with high copays and deductibles.

Disclosure: Children Now/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, and Youth Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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