This afternoon, a group of concerned parents gathered with Representatives and Senators for Governor Patrick’s ceremonial signing of H.52, “An Act to Provide Access to Hearing Aids for Children.” I cannot tell you how many times I heard people at the ceremony saying, “This is such a good bill,” and that’s a testament to the hard work of my colleague Representative Sean Garballey, who was the chief sponsor of H.52.
And it really is a good bill: H.52 plugs a critical gap in early-childhood health care by expanding on a 1998 law that mandates post-natal hearing screenings. While newborns have been screened for hearing loss for more than a decade, insurers were not required to cover the vital medical devices that would restore the gift of sound to these young lives.
I listened today as one mother after another talked about the sorrow they felt when they learned their children faced hearing loss, and the fear they felt when they learned that hearing aids were not covered by their health insurance. One mother, holding the hands of her 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds, told us how her family faced a $15,000 decision every year, a decision that forced her and her husband to answer questions no parent ever wants to face. With the passage of this bill, that economic uncertainty—that sick, empty feeling in the pit of a parent’s stomach when an unexpected medical bill arrives—is a thing of the past for thousands of Massachusetts families.
As Governor Patrick pointed out, this hearing aid bill is part of a larger decision we all made as a Commonwealth, namely that “health care is a public good,” and one to which we all deserve access. With the passage of this bill, Massachusetts becomes the 20th state nationally to require insurers to cover the cost of hearing aids, and I’m proud to have co-sponsored this piece of legislation