Democrats in the House of Representatives have unveiled long-awaited heath care reform legislation that combines the efforts of the House Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means Committees.

The bill includes a provision that would require oral, health, vision, and hearing services, equipment, and supplies at least for children under 21 years of age to be included in an Essential Benefits Package, according to the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), Washington.

If enacted as part of overall health care reform legislation, hearing health services and equipment for children would be considered an essential benefit by the federal government. 

Under the legislation, specifics related to the form of benefit would be determined by a newly created Health Benefits Advisory Committee that would report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

"Many states have been enacting their own childrens’ health insurance mandates," says Micah Spangler, HIA’s government relations coordinator. "The bill lacks specifics. It’s one indicator about what Congress may be thinking about."

In New Jersey, insurance companies are required to cover $1,000 per hearing aid every 24 months for children 15 years old or younger for new insurance plans, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Rockville, Md. For existing plans, the law takes effect on the renewal date. The law, adopted in 2008, culminated a legislative effort that won the support of 57 sponsors in both houses of the state legislature, ASHA says, and it is the result of numerous bills that had been introduced in six legislative sessions since 1999.

[Source: HIA]