Washington State Hearing Aid Coverage Bill: Update

Submitted by Cynthia Stewart, HLAA-WA Legislative Liaison
February 15, 2022

This proposal has had a convoluted history and continues to be challenging.  As most readers will recall, HB 1047 was introduced in 2021 but never got a hearing.  It would have mandated private insurance to cover hearing aids, etc., for children.  We all know the benefits of hearing aids for children with hearing loss, and the problems that ensue if children’s hearing loss is not treated properly.

Although no public hearing was held on the bill, a study was approved and budgeted to determine the cost to the State of this coverage.  According to the Office of Insurance Commissioner, if any new mandates for coverage are added by the state, the Affordable Care Act requires that the state cover that added cost.  Hence, the analysis of cost to the state was important.

In the interim, the bill sponsors, Rep. Emily Wicks and Rep. Tina Orwall, got more information from the Office of Insurance Commissioner and submitted a new bill, HB 1854.  This bill added adults to those for whom private insurance carriers would have to cover hearing aids. The cost analysis is confusing to lay readers but the coverage was interpreted as costing under $1 million annually.

Rep. Eileen Cody, Chair of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee was persuaded to hold a public hearing on HB 1854, and that occurred on the very last day the bill would have been eligible to be voted out of committee.  But a vote was not held. So right now the bill is considered dead for this biennium.

The only possibility to get this coverage before 2023 would be if the sponsors (or someone else) were successful in getting a budget proviso included in the state’s operating budget to appropriate the approximately $1 million needed. As of this writing, that is a very unlikely outcome.

HLAA-WA would like to organize meetings with HLAA-WA members and their legislators around the state during the interim, between the end of session and January 2023, to explain the need for hearing aid coverage in greater detail and line up support for 2023.  You, our readers, will be needed to participate and help convey this message.  Please watch for more information in the next few months.

2 thoughts on “Washington State Hearing Aid Coverage Bill: Update

  1. Maryetta Healy says:

    Will the new law resulting from the class action suit against Kaiser affect Medicare Advantage plans in WA that only allow $1000 per ear coverage for hearing aids despite the actual cost of nearly $3000 per ear and rising?

  2. JoAnne Dyer says:

    Hi Maryetta,

    I believe that because the Schmitt v. Kaiser lawsuit was a class action lawsuit, it’s not a law per se. The Ninth Circuit Court agreed that excluding hearing aids is discriminatory; the suit argued that doing so violates the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination provision. This particular lawsuit doesn’t address the actual cost vs. coverage in Medicare Advantage or other healthcare insurance plans.

    For more info on the Kaiser lawsuit: https://www.hearingloss.org/new-hearing-aid-coverage-and-class-action-lawsuit-in-washington-state/

    And more info on a recent Washington State law that affects hearing aid coverage: https://hearingloss-wa.org/new-insurance-benefits-for-hearing-aids-in-washington-state/

    –JoAnne Dyer HLAA-WA

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