Advocacy Works in Washington State
The AAO-HNS’ advocacy team and Academy physician advocates have worked for three years to shape appropriate hearing aid legislation.
For decades, otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons across the country have been assisting families struggling to afford the expensive, and often changing, prescriptive hearing aids that a growing child requires. Every year there are approximately 30-60 bills filed in the state legislatures that would require private insurance coverage of hearing aids for children. Despite the tireless efforts of legislators, patients, and physicians to collaborate and jointly advocate, the majority of these bills fail to move to final enactment into state law.
The AAO-HNS’ advocacy team and Academy physician advocates have been working with the Washington State Medical Association, the Northwest Academy of Otolaryngology, dedicated family and patient advocacy groups, and other stakeholders in the state of Washington over the past three years to shape and secure appropriate hearing aid legislation. This year’s Washington state bill, SHB 1222, had all the right elements in place when it came before the House Appropriations Committee on February 8, 2023. There were over 600 supporters on record who registered their support for the legislation. Testimony provided included children impacted by hearing loss. These pediatric advocates, who spoke of the need for hearing aids, provided such compelling and genuine testimony that the legislators called for an immediate vote. The House Appropriations Committee promptly approved the bill by a vote of 29-2, which rarely happens!
The work to enact this critical bill into state law in Washington is far from over. SHB 1222 still must pass the full House. If, and when it does, the legislation will then move over to the Senate for a repeat of the process. However, the momentum is strong and the bill’s prognosis at this point is favorable. It is extremely powerful when all advocates can agree on language in a bill and come together in support of a piece of legislation. SHB 1222 is another example of how long-term advocacy, coupled with good legislation, can improve access to care and the lives of the patients we treat.