Ill. legislators, advocates push for hearing aid coverage

Some Illinois state legislators and hearing impaired advocates are trying to get insurance companies to cover the cost for hearing aids without age restrictions.

It is proving to be an uphill battle for advocates as well as families.

"There are five of us in the family, so we have 10 hearing aids total," said Karen Putz.

The last time Putz bought a hearing aid it cost $2,500.

Her three children's were covered under insurance until the family switched to a different company.

"I'm really fortunate that our state program does provide coverage for our kids," said Putz.

Jennifer Egetimeier's two children Kaitlin, 7, and Tristan, 5, have hearing loss as well.

One day her children's audiologist gave Egetimeier shocking news.

"Most insurance companies don't cover this," she recalls the audiologist.

"We looked at our policy and it states (it) right there, but it's not something you think about most of the time, and it's not something you think is going to affect you," said Egetimeier.

Julie Ann Chavez also ran into difficulties with insurance companies when they told her that hearing aids are considered cosmetic.

"I just laugh because it's just silly," said Chavez. "It's like I have to go around and just say, 'Look at this. Isn't this just beautiful?'" joked Chavez. "The hearing aids just help me be a part of a community."

During the spring legislation session, two bills were introduced in the house. One required some of type of coverage with no age restriction and another one was tax deduction.

Both bills failed.

Representatives Sandra Pihos and Patti Bellock are supporting the hearing impaired community on this issue.

"Some companies that have policies with some coverage's but I think they re fighting it at this moment based on cost," said Rep. Pihos.

"I think what we have come up with was about $1,500 or $2,000 for a good hearing aid, but that would be one hearing aid and a lot of people need two," said Rep. Bellock.

Several insurance companies will not comment.

The next step is to develop a new bill.

"We're going to have everybody contact their local legislators and hopefully we'll have 80 or 90 sponsors when we try to run this legislation next spring," said Rep. Bellock.

Rep. Pihos said that there are nine other states that mandate some level of coverage. "We'd like to join them in some way," said Rep. Pihos.

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