As a mother of three beautiful children and a former school board member, much of my focus as a state senator is to ensure we give children in California opportunities to succeed and grow.
I was disheartened and deeply concerned to read a recent media report that showed a program designed to provide hearing aids to thousands of California children has helped only a small fraction of those it is intended to serve.
According to the report, the Hearing Aid Coverage for Children program was launched in 2021 to provide hearing aids to approximately 2,300 children. Sadly, to date only 39 have received help.
According to the CalMatters story, it is also troubling that the Department of Health Care Services has already received $6.7 million to run the program. Nearly $7 million and these children still haven’t received support.
The article also showed how state government continues to struggle to provide services to those most in need. In addition to the process being “cumbersome,” doctors said “reimbursement time is long, reimbursement rates are low, and some don’t know about the program or choose not to participate, according to parents and advocates who lobbied the state to fund children’s hearing aids.”
The average cost of children’s hearing aids can range from $3,000 to $10,000.
These hearing aids are life-altering. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) has said children with hearing loss who do not get help are “very likely to be behind their hearing peers by anywhere from one to four grades.”
The ASHA added that for those with more severe hearing loss, intervention services are even more crucial; those who do not receive intervention usually do not progress beyond the third-grade level.
It’s unacceptable that after more than a year in operation, 98% of the children identified by this program have not received assistance.
I joined with my fellow California Senate Republicans to write a letter to the Department of Health Care Services demanding an explanation. The department indicated that it has “implemented key improvements” to the program. My colleagues and I are asking for the department to outline those improvements and explain what it is doing to ensure the remaining 2,261 children get their hearing aids.
As we pointed out in our letter, what makes this situation even more alarming is the Department of Health Care Services’ failure to explain why so few children have been helped.
Representatives from the Department of Health Care Services have since reached out to Republicans to request a future meeting to discuss the matter. The briefing is welcome, but waiting weeks to hear an answer is unacceptable. There’s an immediate urgency for 2,261 children.
My colleagues and I will continue our inquiry and set expectations on expediency on those running the program to make sure these children have the same opportunity to learn and develop as California’s government promised them.
In the meantime, if there are parents who are anxiously waiting to get their hands on a hearing aid for their child, my staff and I can assist you with getting through the red tape. Please contact my district office at 909-335-0271.
Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh represents the 23rd Senate District that includes portions of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties.