With Help From Kids, Hearing Aid Coverage Bills Get Closer to Victory

Color photo of grade-school-aged kids smiling and lifting their arms in front of a marble wall.
When these kids talk, legislators listen. We love you, kids!

When Jill Bujnevicie and fellow hearing loss advocates are talking, lawmakers are listening. And under Jill’s big-hearted leadership—with help from hard-of-hearing kids and adults—Washington State is closer than ever to hearing aid insurance coverage.

After moving testimony from several advocates, including HLAA-WA’s Cynthia Stewart and kids and others with hearing loss, on February 8, 2022, the House Appropriations Committee passed House Bill 1222 that same day—unusually quickly for any bill. The bill now goes to the Rules Committee, then hopefully to the House floor, then if it passes the House, on to the Senate. Jill estimates the bill is 50% of the way to Governor Inslee’s desk.

A related bill, SSB 5338, passed the Senate and is on its way to the House Health Care & Wellness Committee.

THANK YOU to everyone who’s submitted testimony, signed in “PRO” (almost 600 of you!), and reached out to their legislators.

Color photo of blond woman smiling. She's standing in front of the state capitol building dome in Olympia, Washington. Her arms are around two young boys in suits.
Jill poses outside the Washington State legislature with her son Hugo (left, age 8) and his big brother Enzo (age 9).

Below, we’re sharing Jill’s recent update in her own words. Be sure to stay tuned to our blog, social media, and e-news for more updates.

I am overjoyed to share that the Appropriations public hearing for HB 1222 yesterday at 4pm in the House was a success in such an amazing way that is difficult to put into words. It was heard and PASSED all in the same day which was not expected. 

The day started with Hugo and I and a few other advocates meeting with key legislators at noon, even flipping. Rep. Harris’s No vote in the health committee to a YES vote. We were granted a coveted and difficult to obtain meeting wtith Chair Ormsby of Appropriations prior to the hearing. The committee moved our bill from last of 10 to first to respect the kids who were present’s bedtime…as I politely requested this! 

The hearing started at 4 and about 30 minutes in we went. The kids provided emotional and impactful testimony, they allowed everyone signed up to testify, remote and in person to our surprise.   We were about to leave and Rep. Harris came up to me and said…”Wait, have the kids all come up front…we are going to vote on this now, we never do this”! (only the 2nd time in 11 years!). The kids all sat up front, Rep. Stokesbary (R) proceeded to share his experience of his deaf grandparents while in tears with gratitude for the work we are doing and the bill was passed 29-2 in the committee!!! The legislators had their phones out taking pics of the kids with tears and big smiles. Chair of the health committee, Rep Ricelli who is also on Appropriations ran out, grabbed all the kids, took them down to the Floor of the Leg building (where most people don’t get to go and took selfies with the kids!! It was a day that I will never forget and makes all of this hard work worth it. The kids had the best day and now know the Capital inside and out and are little superstars there with lots of fans:) 

Color photo of a man in a suit taking a selfie with his phone. Behind him are seven grade-school-age kids making the "peace" sign with two fingers.
Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-3rd) takes a selfie with hearing loss advocates.

Earlier in the day, SB 5338 passed the Senate floor and is now onto the House. We will let you know when we get a hearing in the health committee for this. Both bills can pass and do not affect each other but are complimentary. We really want the house bill to pass as it covers plans with over 50 employees, not just under as it has a mandate built into it, not just an EHB update. So it will help more people. 

Things are looking positive for both bills to pass this session but it is not over yet. We are almost 50% through. This is a lot of work and I need all the help I can get. We had over 600 people signed in PRO for the hearing yesterday. All of this makes a difference. We need more kids with hearing loss involved and more people flooding these hearings. The two that will be really important are after HB 1222 passes the floor of the house, hopefully in the next few weeks and it moves to the senate to repeat this process. There will be a public hearing in the Senate Health Committee and Ways and Means before Rules, then the floor, then Gov. Inslee’s desk!

I encourage you to join us in person when the next one comes up, you will not regret it. 

Photo of two grade-school aged boys in suits. It's night, and behind them, the WAshington State capitol building is lit up beautifully.
It’s OK to be out after dark when you’re changing the world.

Actions needed:

1) Email your district legislators, not congressional and ask that they support HB 1222 and SB 5338. Have everyone you think of email their’s as well. We need pressure on them. Remember, if you know their name, you can email them- firstname.lastname@leg.wa.gov is the email format. If you want to go the extra step, call them up, ask for a meeting (in person or virtual) and share why this is important to you and why they should support it. They welcome the opportunity to meet with constituents. 

2) Be ready for the next public hearing. It won’t be until HB 1222 moves from Rules to the Floor and passes the floor. Re: SB 5338, there should be a hearing in the health committee coming up in the coming week or two. 

3) Get active, spread the word, come and join us at the hearings, make appointments with legislators. I met with 4 republican legislators with my kids yesterday and even flipped a vote to a yes. This matters, we can give our kids, deaf and hard of hearing people access to the devices they need. Update the communication spreadsheet with new advocates or friends, family that want this regular communication. 

–Jill Bujnevicie and Hugo

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