ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Thanks to a 10-year old, any child who needs a hearing aid will be able to have one.
Governor Bruce Rauner signed a new law requiring all insurance companies to cover hearing aids for children 18 and younger. The small devices can cost thousands of dollars each.
Until now, many plans barely chipped in because they were considered “cosmetic.”
Hunter Martin is over the moon with his major accomplishment. He and his family have spent the past three years advocating for the issue. It means lots of visits to the Capitol.
Wednesday, he came to Rauner’s office for a private bill signing.
“You’re one of the youngest, and most effective, lobbyists in Illinois’ history.”
It’s not every day a 10-year old changes the law, but Wednesday, Hunter Martin proved he’s not your average 5th grader.
“I just thought he was signing legal forms and after that, he shook my hand and they said, ‘You know, he just signed the bill,’ and I’m like, ‘What?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, my, thank you!'”
In a private ceremony Wednesday, Governor Rauner signed Hunter’s Bill into law. Now, all insurance companies in Illinois must cover hearing aids for kids. “They’re going to have the chance to have hearing aids and be able to hear like a normal kid.
“How does that make you feel?”
For the past three years, Hunter and his family have advocated for the change because Hunter has a hearing loss birth defect.
“It’s like having cotton balls in your ears and everybody’s just talking to you quieter. You can hear like whispering or birds chirping or water dripping.”
Luckily, he’s always had his hearing aids, but he says the most difficult two weeks of his life were when he lost them.
“It gave me a headache and I was just like, ‘Come on, why can’t I be able to hear better?'”
That experience, plus the cost of a replacement, gave his family a reason to take action.
“For insurance companies not to cover it, we couldn’t imagine, especially with all the medication and surgeries and procedures they cover, for them to say this is cosmetic and not need it, blew my mind.”
They met with lawmakers and healthcare professionals to share Hunter’s story. His dad says he couldn’t be prouder.
“I don’t know how many 10-year olds, myself included, could do all the things he’s done.”
For Hunter, it’s all in a day’s work. This is just the beginning.
“I want to be president of the FBI, I want to be SWAT and the Army and Secret Service.”
“That’s a long list.”
“It’ll get done.”
Hunter now says he’ll be working on a bill to get hearing aid coverage for adults 19 – 63. At the end of the day, he says everyone deserves the right to hear.
Hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars each. Hunter’s aids cost $2,100. Because they get dirty and the quality worsens, they need to be changed every three years. Repairs can cost up to $500.
Hunter’s parents say they’ve been paying totally out-of-pocket, not just for aids, but all appointments with an audiologist.
The new law goes into effect January 1, 2019. They expect it to save thousands. Because of the new law, Hunger will be getting a new hearing aid that same day.