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California Could Pay For Babies' And Toddlers' Hearing Aids

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - A bill requiring hearing aids for babies and young children is one step closer to becoming reality. It cleared the State Assembly and is now headed to the California Senate.

Two-year-old Emry was born with severe hearing loss, and it became a race against time to get her fitted for hearing aids.

"The first six months are critical so that the brain can start making sense of what all these sounds are and what it means," said Cathleen Mathes, president and CEO of the John Tracy Center, a nationally recognized clinic for families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The day Emry's hearing aids were turned on for the first time, everything changed.

"She was on my lap, they put the hearing aids in and I said her name and she turned around and looked at me and she had never done that before. It was just amazing," said Emry's mom, Nicky Feinstein.

Not all families will have that experience. Health insurance companies in California are not required to cover the cost of hearing aids in children.

That could soon change, and an initiative is now heading to the Senate to make that sure it does change.

"My daughter's glasses are covered. Why are her hearing aids not covered? They're necessary. They're not elective," Nicky said.

An organization representing insurance companies issued a statement about this issue, reading in part: "Whenever there's a mandate to cover a new set of services, it results inevitably in everyone paying higher premiums."

"When she wakes up in the morning the first thing she says is 'want to hearing aid, want glasses, please' because they make such a big difference in her daily life. She asks for them every single morning," Nicky said.

Supporters of the bill are optimistic. It's been considered multiple times before but has never made it this far. They say if it gets through the Senate, they are confident Governor Gavin Newsom will sign it into law.

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