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Scott introduces hearing-aid bill

Molly Shore

When Susan and Tommy Grafman, parents of two deaf sons, were told by

their health insurance provider it would not cover hearing-aid costs,

the couple refused to accept that answer.

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The Grafmans contacted state Sen. Jack Scott (D-Burbank),

imploring him to enact legislation mandating that hearing aids be

included in health coverage.

Scott appeared with the Grafmans at Washington Elementary School

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on Friday to speak about Senate Bill 174, which would require hearing

aids for deaf and hard-of-hearing youth 18 and younger be covered by

health-insurance companies.

This is the second time Scott has introduced this legislation. He

is the author of a previous bill that cleared the Senate, but got

bogged down in the Assembly’s Health & Human Services Committee in

2002, he said.

The senator said his legislation does not affect the state budget.

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“This is simply something that would be covered by ... both HMOs

and PPOs,” Scott said.

The Grafmans recently paid $7,600 for three hearing aids. Their

7-year-old son Jake wears one aid and 4-year-old Justin requires two.

Grafman said she was surprised to learn that the $40,000 cochlear

implant, helping profoundly deaf children hear and speak, is covered

100% by insurance.

However, Jake, who is deaf, and Justin, who is hard-of-hearing,

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are not candidates for the implant because their hearing losses are

not considered severe enough, their mother said.

Lisa Mee-Stephenson, spokeswoman for Blue Cross of California,

said all legislation passed adds costs to members’ premiums.

However, she said, the company does offer discounts on hearing

aids through its Healthy Extensions Program.

“Parents may not be aware that they can get some discounts on the

hearing aids, even though every year we send out packages of what’s

new, what’s available,” Mee-Stephenson said.

But Grafman said the answer from her insurance provider was “no”

every time she inquired about hearing-aid coverage.

“And I’ve never gotten anything in the mail to tell me otherwise,”

Grafman said.


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