Madeline’s Law: Improving Outcomes for Children with Hearing Loss

Written By: Ryan Brady

In May 2019, Representatives Allison Russo and Casey Weinstein introduced House Bill 243 into the Ohio Legislature. The bill is referred to as “Madeline’s Law,” named after a young girl from Shaker Heights, Ohio. Diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of two, Madeline’s parents were asked to pay $4,000* out-of-pocket for her hearing aids as their insurance company claimed that hearing aids were a “cosmetic device” and not medically necessary. If passed, Madeline’s Law would ensure that private insurance companies in Ohio at least partially cover the cost of hearing aids and related services for children and teenagers who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Madeline’s law would ensure that commercial insurance plans in Ohio cover one hearing aid per ear up to $1,400 every three years, along with all related services prescribed by an audiologist. The bill covers this cost for children up to the age of 22. It is estimated that the legislation would only increase Ohio insurance premiums by fifteen cents per insured person per year.

Permanent hearing loss is one of the most common birth defects in America, affecting two to three out of every 1000 babies. Lack of access to proper resources prevents children who are deaf and hard of hearing from learning spoken language, performing academically, and engaging socially, all of which are necessary for children to reach their fullest potential. The data on this topic could not better emphasize this: children who are born with severe hearing loss and receive appropriate interventions, like hearing aids, within six months of age, develop language on par with their peers by the age of five. Additionally, schools can save $420,000 in special education costs by providing the necessary resources to children who are deaf and hard of hearing, and each person with hearing loss would save approximately $1 million in education, lost wages and other health-related complication costs throughout their life.

Hearing technology, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, allows children who are deaf and hard of hearing to succeed educationally and socially in a hearing world. However, hearing aids can cost upwards of $6,000 each and must be replaced every 3-5 years. For many, these life-changing devices are not affordable. In fact, The Better Hearing Institute predicts that one in five parents cannot afford to pay the price of hearing aids for their child.

Ohio is not the only state seeking coverage for hearing aids. As part of a national movement, “Let America Hear,” 26 other states have recognized the loophole that private insurance companies are taking advantage of and have effectively passed legislation similar to Madeline’s Law that covers hearing aids and related services for children and teenagers. Rhode Island’s legislation is even more expansive, covering hearing aids for all ages, and Wisconsin’s law also covers cochlear implants.

The bill’s first hearing in the Ohio House Health Committee took place on Tuesday, October 1st. The second hearing will be held on October 22nd and is open to proponent testimony. If the bill passes through the Health Committee, it will continue to the Ohio House floor, where it will be discussed and put to a vote. The bill will then go to the Senate, and if it passes, it will land on Governor DeWine’s desk to be signed into law!

For more ways to get involved, check out the Let Ohio Hear Facebook page!

*U.S. Dollars

AG Bell Resources

Chapter Pages

Public Policy Annotated Bibliography

“What you Need to Know About Insurance Coverage for Hearing Aids” – By Joni Alberg


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