FLAA Legislative Update – Recap from December 18, 2018 in Broward County

On December 18, 2018, President Elect Barry Freeman testified in Broward County during an open legislative session regarding FLAA’s proposed legislation – Insurance Coverage for Children’s Hearing Care.

As he stated, according to the Florida Department of Education, there are 5,747 children with a diagnosis of hearing loss receiving special education services in Florida, but this number may not account for all the children with hearing loss since a majority of children acquire the hearing loss during their pediatric and adolescent years from causes including viruses, genetics, and environmental factors like noise exposure.

These children would benefit from management and treatment including hearing aids, but not require special education and, therefore, may not be included in the DOE count.

Hearing loss can have a lasting impact on a child’s speech, language, academic, social, cognitive and overall development.  Studies have also shown that hearing loss has significant effects on the growth and connectivity of the developing as well as the aging brain.  Early intervention with hearing aids makes it possible to avoid these negative effects and promotes the acquisition of normal language, academic, and cognitive development.

Whether a child is born with hearing loss or the hearing loss is acquired after birth, if properly managed and treated by audiologists and educators, these children can remain in normal education classes, thus reducing the need and costs associated with special education and, therefore, maximizing the child’s vocational and economic potential into and throughout adulthood.

The Florida Academy of Audiology along with Families for Children with Hearing Loss, and the Florida Coalition for Spoken Language, plan to re-introduce “Insurance Coverage for Children’s Hearing Care.” This legislation would require private insurance companies to offer their beneficiaries hearing care and hearing aid benefits for children ages 0-21 years.

While hearing aids for children in Florida are covered by the Early Steps Program (ages 0-3 years), Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP), they do not cover the children and families with private insurance.  This proposed legislation would benefit the estimated 1,700 Florida children and their families whose only access to hearing care and hearing aids is through private out-of-pocket payments.

Similar legislation already has been enacted in 23 states, most recently Georgia and Texas, with legislation pending in 16 additional states.

Dr. Freeman requested their legislative support for this hearing care legislation and continued support for Auditory Oral Early Intervention and Education.  He also invited them to visit our FLAA booth in Tallahassee on March 6.

If you are interested in joining our efforts in Tallahassee, please e-mail Julia Andrews, FLAA VP of Professional Affairs, at profaffairs@floridaaudiology.org.