Contact: Carter Ashforth, (510) 763-2444 x108, [email protected]
Advocates Commend Expansion of Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Program
Oakland, CA — Parent and children’s health advocates are commending an agreement with the Newsom Administration and legislative leaders to improve the one-year-old Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Program (HACCP) to include additional infants and children as part of the state budget framework agreed to in June.
Let California Kids Hear Co-Founder Michelle Marciniak said, “Families are struggling to afford the cost of medically necessary hearing aids so that their child can hear, learn, and connect with their world. And now because of HACCP, more parents won’t have to take on lifelong medical debt to obtain hearing aids for their child.”
“Families have been waiting years for relief,” noted Mike Odeh, Senior Director of Health at Children Now, “and with the significant investment made to launch HACCP in 2021 and the eligibility expansions in 2023, we can better deliver on the promise to support California’s deaf and hard of hearing children and begin to address what experts have described as a developmental emergency in California.”
Héctor Hernández, Staff Attorney at the National Health Law Program said “Hearing aids are essential services that have been neglected for years by private insurance plans. Now more than ever, it is important for states to step in and fill gaps in coverage of essential care. We look forward to continuing partnering with the administration to ensure successful implementation of HACCP.”
As part of legislative budget language approved on August 31st (AB 179), eligibility for the Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Program (HACCP) will be expanded to youth under 21 (up from age 17) and to underinsured children (those with limited hearing aid coverage through a private health plan up to $1,500) for families earning less than 600 percent of the FPL. The HACCP eligibility expansions will take effect in January 2023.
In addition, the Department of Health Care Services, which oversees HACCP, recently announced upgrades to the program, including the approval of necessary pediatric audiology codes in the program, and coverage for the externally worn bone conduction hearing aid for children with atresia microtia. Information about HACCP can be found at www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/HACCP/Pages/Home.aspx.
“California does a beautiful job in screening and identifying our children who are deaf and hard of hearing, but has failed when it comes to treating them, and this is an important step forward to ensure deaf and hard of hearing children have similar access to sound as their hearing peers,” said Dr. Daniela Carvalho, a pediatric otolaryngologist , and the medical director of surgical services and the hearing program at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.
Advocacy groups praise policymakers for these recent developments and are in deep gratitude to a bi-partisan group of legislative and budget committee leaders and their staff, especially Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, who championed the request for HACCP improvements, and remained committed throughout the process this year, which began with legislative budget oversight hearings in February.
Marciniak added, “There is more work to be done to ensure all children with Medi-Cal, California Children’s Services (CCS) and HAACP coverage have timely access to pediatric experts, as children in California currently wait between three to six months to be seen. We remain committed to partnering with the Department and other stakeholders to find solutions that improve access, support providers, and increase the number of pediatric audiologists serving our children in this state to address this issue”.
Since its launch, improvements to HACCP have been strongly advocated by a broad coalition of deaf and hard of hearing parents and families; children’s health advocates; pediatric audiologists and otolaryngologists; and educational professionals. Building on the HACCP eligibility expansions, the coalition will focus on the future improvements and investments needed to ensure HACCP and its sister programs (Medi-Cal and CCS) successfully provide timely access to hearing aids and support services for children and youth.
Advocates are also pleased that CalPERS recently announced coverage changes for 2023 that includes full coverage of hearing aids for children every 36 months (effective January 2023): https://www.calpers.ca.gov/page/active-members/health-benefits/plans-and-rates/annual-health-plan-changes.
About Let California Kids Hear
Let California Kids Hear 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 4,800 direct service, parent, youth, civil rights, faith-based and community groups dedicated to improving children’s well-being.
About National Health Law Program
The National Health Law Program, founded in 1969, protects and advances health rights of low-income and underserved individuals and families. We advocate, educate and litigate at the federal and state levels to advance health and civil rights in the U.S.