- Published on 30 May 2022
It is certainly an insult to any hearing care professional, let alone the industry, to see hearing aids described as merely cosmetic devices, but those whose money-making is staked on health risks can and do see it this way. Thanks to a new law proposal, Ohio may join other states in challenging that perspective.
In Ohio, a diagnosis of hearing loss is covered by health insurers, but the hearing aid is not. Hence, in the case of a young girl called Madeleine Rohlin, who has worn hearing aids since she was two-years-old—and which she finds more efficacious than the cochlear implant she was given one year ago at the age of eight—the cost of her hearing aids, their replacements and their maintenance is not covered by her insurance. Madeline’s mother, Nadia, was told the insurer lists hearing aids as a cosmetic device.
Supported by Ohio House Minority Leader Allison Russo, Madeleine's family is behind the introduction of a bill that, if it becomes law - known as Madeleine's Law - would force Ohio health insurers to cover hearing aid costs for anyone under 21 years of age (up to $2,500 per ear every two years).
Democratic politician Russo, a healthcare consultant, argues that hearing is not cosmetic but "essential to development and building relationships". The audiology world knows this is the case, but insurers in at least 20 other states have needed similar bills to Madeleine's Law to force them to surrender to the prevailing logic in hearing healthcare.
What next for Madeleine's Law?
The proposed law is currently a bill in committee, at the stage of debate and amendment. It will be reviewed clause by clause until it reaches the report stage. Following committee action, the bill would still have to go through five more steps to become law in Ohio. That moment may come late to be of much help to Madeleine's family, which has faced $15,000 in hearing aid costs over the past seven years, but the future would certainly be easier for Ohio youngsters with hearing loss.