Lack of hearing ,whether acquired at birth or later in life is a very serious problem for those suffering from it. For children it is not without danger.The scenario of a deaf child unable to hear an approaching threat is bone chilling. lt also poses great difficulties in providing a solid fundamental education necessary to develop into productive adults. Educating such children is complicated and costly,requiring exceptional teachers who are not only experts in their academic specialty but also in their desire and ability to communicate with deaf kids. We are fortunate to have the Kansas School for the Deaf in Olathe whose dedicated staff does great work under difficult circumstances.Unlike our other public schools KSD does not have the ability to raise funds under local option budget provisions and therefore budgetary constraints resulted in much lower salaries for KSD teachers.Last session Rep Arlen Siegfreid introduced legislation which brought KSD teacher salaries in line with what those teaching in Olathe schools get paid.With the help of the Olathe delegation this law passed. Technological and medical advances have helped the deaf . Cochlear implants can improve or restore hearing and modern hearing aides can assure that the wall of silence isolating those with hearing loss from the rest of society can be penetrated .Hearing aids are expensive ,ranging from $ 3000 to $ 6000, and they may need to be replaced every few years.This is an obvious burden on the elderly who live on fixed incomes. A constituent fro Spring Hill brought to my attention that insurance coverage for hearing aids is unavailable in Kansas.Not a single company writes it,you simply cannot buy it.Thinking this would be a quick fix I introduced HB 2125 which mandates that health insurance carriers must offer coverage.
When the bill came up for a hearing before the Insurance and Financial Institutions committee on which I serve, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to testify in support of it.We finally settled for 24 conferees who gave emotional and gripping testimony on their total dependence on their hearing aid to function as parents, workers and participants in our society which relies to a great extent on the spoken word.Not unexpectedly, the lobbyist for the insurance carriers opposed the bill. Her arguments were singularly unconvincing. We\’re not asking for a favor after all, we\’re willing to pay a reasonable premium.Her views would in all likelihood not have persuaded the committee to bottle up the bill.
The lobbyist got help from an unlikely opponent : the insurance commissioner ! Her representative argued against mandating coverage,as if voluntary coverage would work,we have that now and no one sells it.The need for the bill is manifest and our commissioner takes the side of industry and not the Kansans consumer in dire need. We\’ll try again in the next session