Yesterday was not a happy day in our house, because our daughter, just two days removed from her 9th birthday, found out that she will need to get braces. First she’ll have to have a couple of lingering baby teeth pulled to allow some adult replacements to come in straight, then sometime early next year she’ll have to get some braces to correct a burgeoning overbite. We’ve been suspecting this day would come for a while now, and have been preparing her for this news, but yesterday made it official and she was understandably upset
So was I. Of course, there was a slight difference in why we were upset. She was upset because she will have to wear braces. I was upset because I will have to pay for braces. Our health plan only covers half the cost, so our bank account is going to be a couple grand lighter next Spring.
Still, it could be worse. She could have a hearing loss, for instance. Did you know that the overwhelming majority of health plans do not cover any expenses for hearing aids? None, zip, zilch, nada. Not even for children who are learning disabled as a result of a hearing loss. Parents have to bear those costs entirely, no matter how severe the loss or how great the need for the child to have it. It’s one of those rare cases where you actually get better coverage if you’re on Medicaid, which generally does pay for hearing aids, and now Medicare also provide a coverage option that include hearing aids as well.
How stupid is that? If you lose a leg, insurance will pay for a prosthetic. If you sever your spinal chord, insurance will pay for a wheelchair. If you can’t get pregnant, many insurers will pay for in-vitro fertilization. If your vision goes bad, most insurers cover some basic vision care, or employers will at least negotiate steep group discounts for glasses and contacts. I had a crown put into my mouth last year, and insurance covered a good chunk of that. But if your hearing is damaged, you’re stuck.
Thankfully this siutation is changing in some places. Many states now require health plans to cover the costs of hearing aids for children, and they’re really my primary beef here. I understand that the frequency of hearing loss in the elderly is so high that it may be cost-prohibitive to cover the costs of hearing aids for them, but kids with hearing loss are far more rare, and are in greater need of correcting their problem so their education isn’t affected.
And that’s the real rub here. I can speak from personal experience on this subject because my wife is the audiologist for a local public school district, and regularly sees dozens of kids with hearing losses every year. They absolutely, almost without fail, will suffer some sort of learning problem if they’re hearing is not aided. And you know who pays for the consequences of these kids not getting the hearing aids they need? You do. So do I. Because any of these kids who don’t get treatment for their hearing loss and are enrolled in a public school are, by law, required to be provided with tens of thousands of dollars worth of special education during their school-aged years to compensate for the learning difficulties that they are almost guaranteed to encounter.
In other words, we’re going to be paying for this either way. Either we’re going to be funding added special education services for these kids with our tax dollars, or we’re going to be funding enhanced health care benefits with higher premiums. In that case, doesn’t it make sense to go with the option that would actually allow kids to hear?
If you agree with that line of thinking, and you happen to live in a state that does not yet require health plans to cover hearing aid costs, kindly put a bug in the ear of your local representative to see if we can get this situation fixed.