Lead Sponsor: Senator Jamie Eldridge
Summary: Too often, children who are born deaf and would be eligible for cochlear implants don’t receive them because the operation is so expensive – a delay that can have serious effects on the child’s development. This bill requires health insurance plans to provide coverage for cochlear implants and alternative auditory osseointegrated implant systems for children and adults up to age 26, as well as surgical and post-surgical services.
Why This Matters: A Cochlear Implant (CI) is a biomedical device that allows deaf people with severe hearing loss to hear. Far more effective than a hearing aid, the quality of sound from a CI is often clear enough that recipients do not have to rely on lip-reading in order to understand speech.
The surgery is much more successful the earlier it is done in life. However, this surgery – which is expensive – is not required to be covered by third-party insurers, including MassHealth. This means that some children whose parents can’t afford the surgery are being denied this potentially life-altering procedure. In addition to the human cost, the denial or postponement of Cochlear Implant surgery costs the state more money over the long haul in social services – including special education services – the state provides for residents who are deaf or severely hearing-impaired.
An auditory osseointegrated system is an alternative hearing instrument to the cochlear implant for those where there is no other suitable aid. Often times, very young children and babies whose hearing loss qualify for an aid cannot have the implant surgery, but they can benefit from using alternative hearing instruments until their bone structure allows the implant surgery.
What This Bill Would Do: This bill would mandate insurance coverage by third-party insurers for all expenses related to cochlear implant surgery and auditory osseointegrated implants for children and adults up to age 26 in Massachusetts, including post-treatment services.
View the full text of the bill and track its history here.