By Ryan Brady

On Friday, September 27th, Ohio Legislature Representative Casey Weinstein (district 37th) kicked off this year’s Food for Thought series by speaking about his work in government and a bill he is cosponsoring! Being a representative is not his full time job—on top of serving his district, he has two young children and works for a technology company. In the Ohio Legislature, Representative Weinstein serves on the Agriculture and Rural Development, Armed Services and Veterans Affairs, and Energy and Natural Resources Committees.

The bill is titled House Bill 243, and it has been named “Madeline’s Law” after Madeline Rohlin, a young girl from Shaker Heights. Diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of two, her parents had to pay $4,000 out-of-pocket for her hearing aids when their insurance company did not cover them on the grounds of being not medically necessary.

Permanent hearing loss is one of the most common birth defects in America, affecting three in every one thousand babies. Inaccessibility to proper resources impedes hearing impaired children from learning spoken language, performing well academically, and engaging socially, all of which are factors necessary to aid children to reach their fullest potential. The data on this topic could not better emphasize its importance: children who are born severely hearing impaired and receive appropriate interventions, like hearing aids, within six months of age, develop to be on par with their peers in terms of language by the age of five. Furthermore, providing the necessary resources to hearing impaired children at a young age can save over $400,000 in special education costs per child by the time they graduate high school.

Medical devices like hearing aids allow hearing impaired children to succeed developmentally and socially in a hearing world. However, hearing aids can cost up to $6,000 each, and for many, these life-changing devices are not affordable. The Better Hearing Institute predicts that one in five parents cannot afford the price of hearing aids for their child. 

The cost is in no way mitigated through private insurance. In fact, some private insurance companies avoid covering the cost of hearing aids by considering them to be cosmetic and not medically necessary; however, as previously demonstrated, that is far from the truth.

Representatives Casey Weinstein and Allison Russo are co-sponsoring legislation that would require commercial insurance plans in Ohio to cover one hearing aid per hearing impaired ear up to $1,400 every three years for people under twenty-two years old along with all related services prescribed by an audiologist. Weinstein estimated that insurance premiums would increase at only about fifteen cents per insured person, a price that pales in comparison to the $400,000 the legislation would save families of hearing impaired children in the long run.

Twenty-six other states—Nebraska, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Utah, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Oregon—have recognized the loophole that private insurance companies are taking advantage of and effectively passed legislation to eliminate it. Rhode Island covers all age ranges, and Wisconsin also includes cochlear implants.

The bill’s first hearing in the Health Committee was on Tuesday, October 1st! The second hearing will be on October 15th, and open to proponent testimony. If the bill passes through the Health Committee, then it will move on to the House floor, where it will be discussed and voted on. Next, it will go to the Senate, and if it passes, it goes on Governor DeWine’s desk to be signed into law!

I would like to thank the administration for helping me plan this event, especially Ms. Krist!

Below are resources pertaining to the bill.

The text of the bill

Article by The Columbus Dispatch

Press conference