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Senate Budget Panel Approves Buono Bill To Enact “Grace’s Law”

TRENTON – The Senate Budget and Appropriations 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 the U.S. today, and if not treated at an early age, can slow down a child’s development speech, language and cognitive abilities,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex and Chair of the Committee. “A thousand dollar hearing aid purchased today can help to avoid costly special education services later on in life, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road. From a medical, financial and humanitarian perspective, providing a hearing aid is a no-brainer.”

The bill, named “Grace’s Law” after Grace Gleba, a 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.

“A hearing aid shouldn’t be a luxury for young people living with a partial hearing loss,” added Senator Buono.

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 13-0 and now goes to the full Senate for approval.

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