Date: February 12th, 2024
To: Chairman Haden and Members, House Healthcare Reform
From: Mallory Rusch, Executive Director, Empower Missouri
Re: Our support for HB 1918 and HB 2626
Empower Missouri has spent more than 120 years fighting poverty in Missouri. Today, we come to present testimony on a bill which specifically targets our neighbors with the lowest incomes. On behalf of our staff, board, and coalition members we are asking you to support HB 1918 and HB 2626.
Hearing aids and cochlear implants are critical resources for individuals with hearing impairment or a full loss of hearing. According to the Hearing Industries Association, the average cost of prescription hearing aids ranges between $1,000 and $4,000, depending on the severity of the hearing loss. In Missouri, the income cap for individuals receiving healthcare through MO HealthNet is $19,392. The income cap for a family of four is $39,900. I would implore this committee to consider your own families’ annual income and expenses, and then consider if you feel like an individual or family earning this low of an income could manage to afford a $2,500 medical bill just to be able to hear.
If this issue is debated the way that I’ve seen similar issues debated in this committee, I’m sure that lobbyists for the health insurance industry will tell you that when you add additional services, like hearing aids, to healthcare plans, the prices will go up for everyone on those plans. That may be the case, but that is a choice made by the health insurance industry. Meanwhile, CEOs of major healthcare companies like Anthem, Aetna and United Healthcare are raking in between $15M and $25M annually in salaries, bonuses, and stock options. This is simply another case of forcing those with the least among us to beg for basic necessities while the rich get richer.
As a taxpayer whose tax dollars go to fund programs like Medicaid, I want those funds to ensure that families covered by Medicaid aren’t just surviving, but thriving. I know that there are many, many other Missourians who agree with me. The ability to hear is necessary to thrive. Please vote “do pass” on these bills.