Senate bill could reduce hearing aid costs

May 24, 2009 (CHICAGO) One is Senate Bill 68, which mandates insurance coverage for hearing aids with no age restrictions.

The high cost of hearing aids is one of the biggest complaints of hard-of-hearing and deaf adults because they are rarely covered by health insurance.

"It's was over $2,500 just for one, and that's not including the ear mold, the tube and the hearing aid batteries that comes with it, and not including the doctor visits," said Julie Ann Chavez of the DuPage Center for Independent Living. She is one of the lead advocates for the legislation. Both she and her husband wear hearing aids.

"The insurance companies, they don't consider these to be prosthetic devices. They only consider it to be cosmetic," said Chavez.

Dana Craig is another consumer who wears a hearing aid.

"I rely on my hearing aid a lot to be able to communicate," she said.

However, Craig needs a new one but cannot afford it, and her employee's insurance will not cover it.

"There are times I put my hearing aid on, and it doesn't come on. I have to turn it off and on flick it around, just hoping it will come back on," said Craig.

The lead sponsor of Senate Bill 68 is State Sen. Ira Silverstein.

"It's a great bill. It helps people obtain hearing aids, and the insurance companies are the ones that are really fighting this bill," Senator Silverstein said.

"We're only talking a cost of $2,500 for a hearing aid," said the senator. "Most insurance companies pay for a cochlear implant, which costs over $80,000."

One of the opponents of the legislation is the Illinois Manufacturers Association, which says another mandate will increase premiums significantly. It also fears many businesses will drop insurance coverage if there is a cost increase.

The Illinois Academy of Audiology will only support an insurance mandate for those who cannot speak for themselves and whose educational success depends on their ability to hear, the children of Illinois.

However, Senate Bill 68 has no age restrictions.

"It's a long process, and it is a difficult issue because, given the economy, the insurance companies do have financial constraints on them," Silverstein said.

May 31 is the deadline to delay the bill until the fall session when it would be taken up again.

"There's been a lot of negotiations on this bill. There's been a lot of press on this bill. It's an important bill for the people in the hearing-impaired community. So, I'm hopeful that if we don't get something worked out in the next two or three weeks, we have the summer and can come back in the fall and possibly come to some resolve," said the senator.

"You know, we need this coverage. It's very crucial," said Chavez.

State Sen. Silverstein encourages people to talk to their legislators to let them know how important this bill is.

To learn more about Senate Bill 68, visit