An estimated 200 children are born in Wisconsin each year with some level of hearing impairment. It can take years before the condition is fully discovered, although many of them can be helped through the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants.
However, State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) says families are often in for a shock when they turn to insurance companies to help cover the average $3,000 cost of a hearing aid. That's because providers aren't required to offer coverage for hearing-related devices.
Lassa is co-sponsoring legislation that would require them to cover the devices and the surgery needed to install a cochlear implant, if a doctor or audiologist prescribes it for a child. The Stevens Point Democrat says the mandate is essential to making sure hearing impaired children have the needed tools to learn and lead a normal life.
The mandate would not impact many small group or state insurance plans, although Lassa says setting the standard of care would encourage many of them to offer coverage.
Supporters of the bill say insurance plans in the 13 other states who have adopted similar legislation have only seen mild increases to insurance premiums as a result.