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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Report Document No. 54
    PUBLICATION YEAR 2009

    Document Title
    House Bill 237 (2008): Coverage for Hearing Aids and Related Services for Children from Birth to Age 18

    Author
    Special Advisory Commission On Mandated Health Insurance Benefits

    Enabling Authority
    2.2-2504 (6.)

    Executive Summary
    House Bill 237 was referred to the Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits (Advisory Commission) for review by the House Committee on Commerce and Labor during the 2008 Session of the General Assembly. House Bill 237 was introduced by Delegate John A. Cosgrove.

    House Bill 237 would amend Section 38.2-4319 and add Section 38.2-3418.15 to the Code of Virginia. The bill requires insurers to provide coverage for hearing aids and related services for children from birth to age 18. The bill applies to insurers proposing to issue individual or group accident and sickness insurance policies providing hospital, medical and surgical or major medical coverage on an expense-incurred basis; corporations providing individual or group accident and sickness subscription contracts; and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) providing health care plans for health care services. House Bill 237 requires policies to include coverage for the payment of the cost of one hearing aid per hearing impaired ear every 24 months, up to $1,500 per hearing aid. The insured may choose a higher-priced hearing aid and may pay the difference in cost above $1,500, with no financial or contractual penalty to the insured or to the provider of the hearing aid. The bill also provides that no insurer, corporation, or HMO shall impose upon any person receiving benefits pursuant to this section any co-payment, fee, or condition that is not equally imposed upon all individuals in the same benefit category. The bill defines hearing aid as “any wearable, non-disposable instrument or device designed or offered to aid or compensate for impaired human hearing and any parts, attachments, or accessories, including ear molds, but excluding batteries and cords.” Hearing aids are not to be considered durable medical equipment. The bill states that related services include ear molds, initial batteries, and other necessary equipment, maintenance, and adaptation training.

    The bill does not apply to short-term travel, accident only, limited or specified disease policies, or contracts designed for persons with Medicare, or any other similar coverage under state or federal governmental plans or to short-term non-renewable policies of not more than six months’ duration.

    The Advisory Commission held a hearing on October 27, 2008 in Richmond to receive public comments on House Bill 237. In addition to the patron, a concerned citizen and her daughter spoke in favor of the bill. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Center (DHHSC), Inc., Audiology Hearing Aid Associates, and Speech Language Hearing Association of Virginia (SHAV) provided written comments in support of House Bill 237. Written comments in opposition to House Bill 237 were received from the Virginia Association of Health Plans and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. The National Federation of Independent Business also provided written comments on House Bill 237.

    The Advisory Commission voted on November 19, 2008 to recommend against the enactment of House Bill 237 (Yes-9, No-0, and Abstain-1). The Advisory Commission members believe that based upon the information presented, hearing aids significantly improve the quality of life for children. However, some members were concerned with the language of House Bill 237 regarding the time frame for replacements, and the providers covered by the bill. In addition, the state programs to assist children needing hearing aids have expanded in recent years and there appears to be more information available to assist families with making connections to obtain services.