TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — A bill that would require private health insurers to cover hearing aids for children diagnosed with hearing loss passed unanimously in the Florida Senate on Thursday.

Fla. Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) has been working with stakeholders on the bill for five years.

“If you’ve ever seen a child hear their mother’s voice for the first time,” Baxley said in a committee hearing for the bill, “it’s eye-opening and enlightening.”

SB 498 forces “a health insurer issuing an individual policy that provides major medical or similar comprehensive coverage for a dependent child” to cover hearing aids at $3,500 per ear for two years, including at least six ear molds over that same period.

If the prescription changes, or the child “experiences a significant and unexpected change” in their hearing that cannot be fixed by altering the existing hearing aid, “a new 24-month period must begin with full benefits and coverage.”

A legislative analysis found the bill will impact 461 children in Florida.

As the bill moved through committee hearings over the past three weeks, several children testified about the difference hearing aids have made in their lives.

“I remember taking people by the hand and pulling them around the house, pointing to the things that I wanted or needed,” said Garrett Campbell, a high school student from St. John’s, Florida, who suffered from a hearing condition as a child. “When I was [hearing] aided at 23 months old, I took off. Soon, I was putting words together and eventually speaking in complete sentences.”

The bill is personal for Baxley — he adopted a son at three months old whose vision is impaired, which he said gave him a sensitivity to children who need help.

“When they called me about Jeffrey, they said ‘he sees with his hands and his ears, not his eyes’,” Baxley said. “And I realized how vital it is to have hearing, even over vision, to learn and to access and to interact with the world. And he’s 35 now. So yes, I have a special place in my heart for young people that just need a chance.”

The bill is now ‘In Messages’ between the House and Senate.

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