New Mexico Insures Hearing Aids for Children: Advocacy Results in Success Children in New Mexico who need hearing aids have insurance coverage as of July 1. Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation in April that mandates coverage every three years for hearing aids and related services for children from birth to age 18 and for children ages 18–21 who are still attending ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   August 01, 2007
New Mexico Insures Hearing Aids for Children: Advocacy Results in Success
Author Notes
  • Suzanne Secord, an educational audiologist with the Albuquerque Public Schools, can be reached at szyaudio@aol.com.
    Suzanne Secord, an educational audiologist with the Albuquerque Public Schools, can be reached at szyaudio@aol.com.×
  • Kathleen Moseley, who holds a current nursing license in New Mexico and a master’s degree in preventive medicine, can be reached at kappmoseley@comcast.net.
    Kathleen Moseley, who holds a current nursing license in New Mexico and a master’s degree in preventive medicine, can be reached at kappmoseley@comcast.net.×
Article Information
Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   August 01, 2007
New Mexico Insures Hearing Aids for Children: Advocacy Results in Success
The ASHA Leader, August 2007, Vol. 12, 5-8. doi:10.1044/leader.AN3.12102007.5
The ASHA Leader, August 2007, Vol. 12, 5-8. doi:10.1044/leader.AN3.12102007.5
Children in New Mexico who need hearing aids have insurance coverage as of July 1. Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation in April that mandates coverage every three years for hearing aids and related services for children from birth to age 18 and for children ages 18–21 who are still attending high school. New Mexico is only the ninth state to mandate such coverage.
Children now will be fitted with amplification during those early critical years and the families of New Mexico will no longer suffer the burdens of major debt. We are celebrating a great outcome and we hope our success inspires others. We brought our strengths together—as an educational audiologist and as a parent of a child with hearing loss. Our stories, and the steps that led to success, appear below.
Kathleen Moseley: Grassroots Advocacy
Mosely was a strong advocate for clients as a visiting nurse and public health nurse and she carried that role with her when she became a parent. She is the mother of a 21-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter. The family lived in Iowa when her son, who has a hearing loss, was born. Luckily, he received a loaner hearing aid right away through the local speech and hearing center. She wanted to be sure that parents in New Mexico had the same opportunity that she did.
As a representative of New Mexico Hands and Voices (NMHV), Moseley took the lead in putting together a memorial—a formal expression of the desire for legislation that informs all stakeholders about its effects. One of the first resources she turned to was ASHA’s Web site, which offered a model bill, direct links to actual laws, and legislative precedents from eight other states. ASHA staffers provided contact information for those states.
Moseley collaborated with the New Mexico Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CDHH), and the Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Council. The group pooled critical research, statistics, and procedural knowledge to draft a well-received memorial, which the New Mexico legislature passed in January 2006.
Feasibility Study
Over the next year, the CDHH coordinated a legislative study committee. It brought together parents of children with hearing impairments and representatives of many state agencies that fund hearing aids, such as the Medicaid division of Human Services, Children’s Medical Services from the Department of Health, and the Family Infant Toddler Program.
The committee also included audiologists from the New Mexico School for the Deaf (NMSD) and Indian Health Services, and finally, a representative from the insurance division of the public regulation commission. Sheree Hall, lead audiologist for NMSD, was particularly helpful in defining the reimbursement amount necessary for quality hearing aids as well as explaining the amplification needs of children to the legislators.
After studying the obstacles to hearing aid acquisition, it became clear that the problems were much larger than just lack of private insurance. At the time, Medicaid paid only $400 instead of the average $1,400 cost of hearing aids for New Mexico children who needed them. Thus, Medicaid reimbursement and private insurance coverage were equally important. In addition, a sales tax known as a gross receipts tax applied to hearing aids in New Mexico.
One of the most discouraging points in the research was the inability to attain the statistical information critical to delineating costs for insurance companies. Ultimately, the group used statistics gathered in a Colorado Department of Education audiological survey to extrapolate to New Mexico’s population.
Suzanne Secord: Educational Audiologist
An educational audiologist, Secord answered audiology-related questions. Her connection started with the legislative session for the memorial.
As vice president for audiology of the New Mexico Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NMSHA), she attended to help seek legislative support. Following passage of the feasibility study, Moseley asked Secord to join the core study group that met afterward.
When the need arose to write the hearing aid insurance bill, Secord had the report that the study group had compiled, ASHA’s model bill, and the laws enacted in the other states.
The committee concluded that three bills were indicated: one for Medicaid, one for private insurance, and one for sales tax. After writing the bills in the summer of 2006, Secord met with NMSHA’s lobbyist and bill specialist in Santa Fe. The group put the drafts into the proper format and moved them forward.
The group next used member lists, phone contacts, and e-mail trees to enlist support during legislative hearings. The study group prepared testimonial packets for parents and developed a “Hearing Loss Awareness Day” to encourage community support and involvement.
Final Step
Despite successful progress for the legislation, all our New Mexico advocates continued intensive lobbying until the governor signed off. We knew that similar bills had failed at the governor’s office in other states, including California and Colorado.
It was truly astounding to all of us that no opposing votes surfaced during the entire legislative session. All our bills passed unanimously!
This would not have happened without support from both Gov. Richardson and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who are committed to children and cost- effective, preventive interventions.
Next Steps
The key elements crucial to our success were utilizing the right people and optimal process, seeing the effort as a labor of love, and following through on our commitment. We would like to see more action in New Mexico, to:
  • Mandate a trial period for hearing aids, to allow for an optimal fitting for amplification

  • Explore bulk purchase to establish a hearing aid bank that children can use during transitional times or when their hearing aids are lost or in disrepair

  • Collect data on the number of children with hearing loss and those fitted with hearing aids from birth through school age, to gauge success and encourage other states to consider legislative action

  • Parents of children with hearing loss are now free to spend more time parenting instead of spending so much time on the telephone with insurance companies justifying the need for an amplification device. We would like parents to know that others who went before them made this change possible. Maybe they will feel supported, not alone.

Provisions of the New Mexico Law

The New Mexico law:

  • Increases Medicaid reimbursement for hearing aids for all recipients at a rate adequate for fitting digital hearing aids, if appropriate.

  • Mandates insurance coverage for hearing aids at a maximum of$2,200 per aid every three years up to age 18 and 21 for those still in highschool

  • Eliminates state sales tax and gross receipts tax for hearingaids (or visual aids for the blind)

  • Increasesdispensing fee reimbursement to $300 from $240

  • Those interested in pursuing similar efforts can contactSheree Hall, lead audiologist with NMSD, at sheree.hall@nmsd.k12.nm.us.

To find out more about how to advocate, see article on page 37.

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August 2007
Volume 12, Issue 10