The Wisconsin legislature has approved a measure requiring insurance companies cover costs of cochlear implants for children. The bill's author, state Senator Julie Lassa of Stevens Point, said families of deaf children can face large expenses. "Parents must pay out of pocket, sometimes as much as $3,000 per hearing aid for their children," Lassa said during Senate debate on the bill Thursday. "Many of these kids wear two hearing aids that need to be replaced about every three years."
Lassa said the legislation will save families money – and taxpayers as well. "Because many insurance companies don't cover the costs of cochlear implants and hearing aids, many school districts have to purchase special equipment for teachers to communicate with hearing impaired students," she said. "The costs of this equipment are passed on to taxpayers, as are the special education costs.
Advocates say cochlear implants offer a solution for children with severe hearing loss, but most insurance plans consider them to be cosmetic surgery and don't cover the costs. But state Senator Mary Lazich questioned whether the state ought be forcing private insurance providers to cover such costs. "It's just another step in the process of making private health insurance unaffordable, putting some families in harms way of nor having any insurance at all, because the costs become prohibitive," The New Berlin Republican. "If we believe that this is in the state's best interest, then the honest thing to do is for the state to step and take on the burden and pay for it, rather than foisting this cost on a small population. They're taxpayers, too."
The bill passed the state Senate in a voice vote, and passed the Assembly 80-16 vote. If signed into law by the governor, Wisconsin would be first in the nation with such a requirement.