Virginia bill would mandate hearing aid coverage for kids

Virginia Politics

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — When Crystal Dupilka’s son Clay was diagnosed with hearing loss in both ears, she was shocked, worried and then angry.

“I couldn’t believe my ears,” she told 10 On Your Side.

Then, insurance denied her claims for the hearing aids her child needed.

“I just don’t understand how you can provide glasses for children who are hard of seeing or have low vision, and then hearing aids are deemed medically unnecessary,” she said.

That’s right, private insurance does not cover hearing aids for children in Virginia, but 25 other states and Medicare do.

That issue lead Dupilka to lobby legislators for change. She found an ally in Virginia Beach: Sen. Bill DeSteph.

“I think it’s just a smart thing to do — the right thing to do,” DeSteph said.

DeSteph is sponsoring SB 423, to mandate coverage for hearing aids for minors.

“It’s a lot cheaper to give them hearing aids … then wait and have to spend $40,000 a year for accommodations for speech therapy and everything else while they’re in school,” DeSteph told WAVY.com.

Research shows that without intervention, kids like Clay fall behind in literacy and language development.

“As a parent, when you hear this, you’re immediately devastated because you worry how is he going to fit into school? Is he going to get bullied? And then you think, well what if he doesn’t get the job opportunity he wants?” Dupilka said.

The Dupilkas paid out of pocket for Clay’s hearing aids — about $3,000.

As he grows, new molds will cost about $100 every year or two.

DeSteph estimates the legislation would help about 400 children a year in Virginia and cost insurance companies $711,000.

“That’s not that much,” he said.

Maybe not much for big insurance, but for the Virginia families affected, it’s like music to their ears.

The Senate passed the bill Friday it now moves to the House. It is scheduled to be taken up there Tuesday.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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