We’d all like to see more laws that help people with hearing loss. But what are the most effective ways for everyday people to do that? And how can we support the current hearing aid legislation?
At the first webinar in our new Empowerment Series, Cynthia Stewart explains the two bills currently in play in the Washington State legislature (HB 1222 and SB 5338). She also gives a brief overview of the legislative process here in our state and offers tips on the best ways to connect with your lawmakers and encourage them to support people with hearing loss.
Some highlights of Cynthia’s presentation:
- In odd-numbered years, Washington State adopts a statewide budget. The legislative session is longer, and the legislature typically does more work and passes more bills.
- When a committee is in executive session, they debate and vote to pass a bill. The public can watch this process, but can’t provide comments or testimony during the session.
- Companion bills are bills that are identical in both houses.
- Bills really need a champion–someone to shepherd them through the process and advocate for them.
- House Bill 1222 requires private insurance companies to cover hearing aids and some supportive services. Over-the-counter hearing aids are not included.
- Senate Bill 5338 would ask the federal government if hearing instruments, among other things, will become part of the State’s Essential Benefits for mandatory insurance coverage..
- HB 1222 would not cost the taxpayers anything, because the coverage would be included in the insurance premium rates. However, if HB 1222 passes but the state does not get federal authorization to include hearing aids as an essential health benefit, then the state would be obligated to pay the cost of the coverage, according to Affordable Care Act provisions.
- When you approach your legislator, always be calm and respectful.
- Ask the legislator about themselves.
- Refer to the “hand” model when crafting your message, and use a personal story…
- Introduce yourself and where you live. Mention you’re a constituent.
- Introduce your issue. (“I’m here to talk about ___”)
- Explain why it’s important to you.
- Explain why it’s important to others. Why should the legislature care?
- Make the “ask.” (“Will you support ___?”) If not, ask what would convince them to support the bill.
- Remember that the legislative process is long.