FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Carter Ashforth, [email protected], (510) 763-2444 x 108
Michelle Marciniak, MPH, [email protected], (310) 990-6720
Families, Medical Experts and Advocates Urge Policymakers to Let California Kids Hear
WHAT: Presentation of the Let California Kids Hear Act, SB 635 (Menjivar & Portantino)
WHEN: Tuesday, July 11, 2023 – 1:30PM, 1st on the agenda
WHERE: California Assembly Health Committee, 1020 O Street, Sacramento, CA, Hearing Room 1100
WHO: Senator Caroline Menjivar (D-San Fernando Valley) and Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) will present Senate Bill 635 to the Assembly Health Committee; Dr. Daniela Carvalho, Rady Childrens’ Hospital – San Diego, and Michelle Marciniak, Co-Founder, Let California Kids Hear will provide testimony, followed by families and advocates.
Families will gather at 12:45pm, before the hearing, to be available for interviews, including:
- Johanna Wonderly, a military wife, has four children, three of whom are deaf and hard of hearing D/HH kids, whose hearing aids for their kids are only covered when her husband is on active duty.
WHY: Only 1 in 10 children with commercial health insurance in California have coverage for hearing aids. Children’s hearing aids can cost more than $6,000 per pair every four years, creating significant affordability challenges for families. California trails 32 other states that require coverage of hearing aids for children in the commercial market and/or the state exchange. Senate Bill 635, the Let California Kids Hear Act, introduced by Senators Menjivar and Portantino, would require health plans to cover hearing aids for children up to age 21.
A prior version of this bill in 2019 had unanimous approval in the Senate and Assembly but was not signed into law. Instead, in 2021 the Administration created the Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Program (HACCP). Yet, two years into the program, with over $32 million budgeted, only 225 of the estimated 7,000 children who need assistance with hearing aids have benefited from it.
Senator Caroline Menjivar (D-San Fernando Valley) explains, “Pediatric hearing loss is a developmental emergency because it can lead to additional concerns, delays in social and educational skills, and emotional trauma. I am deeply concerned that the current program has not shown the results we expected, so we are coming back to the drawing board for a solution to help ensure youth have access to hearing aids. SB 635 can help California’s deaf and hard-of-hearing children by ensuring families are covered under their health plans and reducing delays in accessing care when every day counts. If we are truly a state that cares for our children, then we must do everything in our power to Let California Kids Hear.”
“Comprehensive health insurance for children and youth must include timely access to hearing aids and services; it’s time California let kids hear,” said Mike Odeh, Senior Director of Health at Children Now, a statewide children’s policy advocacy organization and co-sponsor of SB 635.
“It’s important that our state ensures access to hearing aids in a timely manner for children,” added Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank). “This bill will remove affordability barriers for families so children can meet their developmental milestones and will contribute greatly to the wellbeing of our kids. I am proud to co-author SB 635 with Senator Menjivar.”
“California does a beautiful job in screening and identifying our children with hearing loss but fails miserably when it comes to treating them. I see this every day when I take care of children who are hard of hearing and the difference that a hearing aid makes in the lives and early development of these children. Without early access to hearing aids, children are at risk for speech, language, cognitive, educational, and social-emotional delays. I also see how devastating it is for parents who are unable to afford the treatment they know their child needs,” says Dr. Daniela Carvalho, MD, Medical Director of Surgical Services and Director of the Hearing Program at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.
“This bill is a better deployment of state resources supporting access to local pediatric providers within their medical homes, which is critical for families seeking care,” says Michelle Marciniak, Co-Chair, and Co-Founder of Let California Kids Hear, a co-sponsor of SB 635.
About Let California Kids Hear
Let California Kids Hear is a volunteer coalition whose mission is to ensure deaf and hard of hearing children have timely access to affordable hearing aids and pediatric specialists, enabling children to meet their developmental milestones and access instruction in the classroom.
About Children Now
Children Now is a non-partisan, whole-child research, policy development and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health, education and well-being in California. The organization also leads The Children’s Movement of California, a network of over 5,000 direct service, parent, youth, civil rights, faith-based and community groups dedicated to improving children’s well-being.