Miss Michigan 2014 KT Maviglia speaks at a press conference about hearing aid bills in the Michigan Capitol Building on September 8, 2023.
Hearing aids are rarely covered by health insurance and can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket for the more than 7% of Michiganders living with a degree of hearing impairment. State lawmakers introduced legislation this week to require insurance companies offer coverage for hearing-related devices and services for children in Michigan.
Hearing loss can occur at any point throughout a person’s life, but hearing impairment is one of the most common birth defects in the United States, with about 2 out of every 1000 babies in Michigan being born with hearing impairment.
One of the sponsors of the bills aimed to increase access for children to hearing services, state Rep. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) said at a news conference Friday that without intervention and services, children not being able to hear can have long term consequences for their learning and mental health.
Miss Michigan 2014 KT Maviglia knows firsthand how important early intervention for hearing loss is, having been diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss in fourth grade. Maviglia now wears hearing aids.
“[My family had to] pay $5,000 each time I needed new hearing aids. As two service professionals with three kids, this is a lot,” Maviglia said. “And me being the only one that had hearing loss, it was something that they just thought was covered by their private insurance and they were very surprised to find out that it was not.”
There are two bills to require insurers offer hearing support for children in the state with Rep. Zorn sponsoring one and Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills) sponsoring the other with bipartisan support.
“Hearing aids are not a cosmetic choice and just like eyeglasses are covered by insurance to assist in vision, we believe it is our moral and societal responsibility to extend similar support for hearing impaired children,” Steckloff said in a written statement Friday. “We firmly believe that every child, regardless of their hearing abilities, deserves an equal opportunity to thrive and develop to their full potential.”
HB 4944 would require insurers to cover up to $3000 for hearing aids every three years for qualified enrollees under the age of 19.
HB 4963 would require insurers to provide coverage for hearing related services like hearing evaluations and hearing device adjustment appointments.
Zorn said he’d like to see the age for required coverage extended, but only found enough support to cover children in their developmental years in order to set them up for success early on.
Hearing impairments are very common in Michigan and in the United States, but there isn’t enough awareness of how prevalent they are, Maviglia said, having been too embarrassed in high school to wear her hearing aids.
“I found different ways to cope like sitting in front of the classroom, asking the teacher to repeat themselves, asking questions after class … reading lips or asking questions or making a joke out of it,” Maviglia said. “When I wear my hearing aids, I notice such an improvement so I can’t imagine not having them.”
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