TRENTON – The Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation today sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono that would mandate health care providers to cover hearing aids for people 15 years old and younger.
“Partial hearing loss is the number one birth defect in America. Fortunately, hearing aids can help to minimize the adverse affects of hearing loss when used at an early age,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “No child should go without the benefits of a hearing aid because their parents’ insurance refuses to pay.”
The bill, named “Grace’s Law” after Grace Gleba, a eight-year-old Washington Township (Warren County) girl with a severe hearing impairment, would require health insurers in New Jersey to provide coverage for medically necessary hearing aids for children 15 years old and younger. The coverage would be required every 24 months and be limited to $1,000 per hearing aid. The bill also would allow for families to select hearing aids priced higher than $1,000 as long as the families pays for the difference.
“If not treated at an early age, hearing loss can impede speech, language and cognitive development which can, in turn, lead to the need for costly special education services later on in life,” added Senator Buono. “A thousand dollar hearing aid today can save hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road and help a hearing impaired child live a full and happy life.”
Senator Buono noted that the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management reports that detecting and treating hearing loss at birth saves $400,000 per child in special education costs by the time that child graduates high school. She also noted that currently New Jersey law requires a hearing screening for all newborns, but has no mandates ensuring that treatment is also received.
The bill passed the Committee by vote of 3-0 and now goes to the full Senate for approval.