Twenty-four states have passed mandates to require private insurance to provide a hearing aid benefit for children with the latest being Georgia requiring insurance companies to provide a $3,000 per ear benefit every four years. FLAA was approached more than three years ago by parent groups for children with hearing loss in Florida to support similar legislation. The FLAA Board has spent these past few years studying the request, reviewing the legislation in other states, and looking at other insurance mandates in Florida.
At the recent Annual Convention in Orlando, the idea of an insurance mandate in Florida was presented to the membership for their suggestions. It was decided that the FLAA Board should move forward drafting language, hiring a lobbying firm, and pursue efforts to introduce and pass legislation. Proposed language was provided to the bill drafting department of the Florida Legislature who is working on the final language that will be introduced in the next legislative session scheduled to begin in January 2018.
The proposed language is intended to include the following:
- Coverage for children from birth through 21 years of age for hearing aids prescribed, fitted, and dispensed by a licensed audiologist;
- Minimum coverage of $3,500 per ear within a 24-month period;
- And, audiologists may balance bill or separately bill for services or products that exceed the insurance coverage.
What are the chances for passage? We have a lot of support by families and organizations like Sertoma but, typically, legislators do not like mandates. Also, it is typical for a bill to take several years with annual resubmissions before a bill stands a chance for passage. That said, we are feeling very optimistic about the initial response we are receiving in Tallahassee. This is a “white hat” issue. We are helping children and families who do not otherwise have coverage. Initial actuarial studies suggest that costs to insurance policies would be an estimated $0.06 per member per month (PMPM) and annual costs around $0.70 to a policy. This is consistent with actuarial studies in other states where PMPM estimates also are around $0.06-$0.20. Our message is that this would be an affordable and reasonable amount to add to an insurance policy for include a hearing care benefit for children.
- Children’s Hearing Technology Day. Mark your calendars for Wednesday, January 10 in Tallahassee. FLAA is coordinating a day in Tallahassee to educate legislators about the professional services provided by audiologists, including the technology used with children. The Au.D. students at the three programs in Florida already are organizing this event. All audiologists in Florida are welcome to attend and meet with their local representatives. To volunteer for this event, please click here or fill out the attached form. If you are unable to attend the activities in Tallahassee, then please consider scheduling a time to meet with your State Representative in your local district. Materials will be provided.
- Sponsors. Once the language is finalized, FLAA and the parent groups will seek sponsors. Once we have sponsors, the membership will be asked to contact their representatives to garner support for the legislation. More to come once we have sponsors.
- Financial support. Start planning to financially support this initiative. Once we have the Bill and Sponsors, we will ask the membership to donate to support the Hearing Care for Children Act.
- Questions, suggestions, comments. Please direct these to firstname.lastname@example.org