A “How-to” Guide for Passing
Hearing Aid Legislation
While participating recently in New Mexico’s successful passing of two laws and one initiative to remove financial barriers to hearing aids, I observed three essential elements. Those three elements are the same ones necessary in successfully advocating within the educational system, and for baking my family’s favorite chocolate cake.
First, you need the right stuff or structure. Cakes need a good cook, the appropriate kitchen cookware, and tools. Educational systems need expert staff in the right positions, and NM’s hearing aid law needed:
- An older parent consumer who has experience with the process,
- “Newer” parents with current experience,
- A supportive Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to coordinate and lead…
- A committee of experts (state agency reps, consumer group reps, various audiologists, and an active, informed newborn hearing screening advisory council),
- A speech and hearing association lobbyist for legislative guidance,
- A powerful, committed legislative sponsor,
- Hands & Voices members/parents to jump in and swell the ranks at the drop of a hat, and
- A pro-active, entrepreneurial Governor!
A structure is the necessary minimum. In other words, this structure doesn’t guarantee success alone, but without it the second and third steps would be difficult or impossible. Structure is necessary but not sufficient.
Second, the right “stuff” or structure in place allows a process to work. In the case of the chocolate cake it’s the recipe. Within education, it’s the IEP process. Here, it was the state legislative process. Processes are often unique to their state or region. For example, cakes in New Mexico require ¼ tsp. less baking powder per teaspoon in the recipe for the best result. NM legislation fares better if you first introduce a “memorial” which requires a legislative study committee to study an issue. This allowed NM’s committee of experts to pull in community involvement, to do needed research, develop consensus, and formulate a well written bill if necessary, all under a mandate.
Third and finally, you need a good outcome. If you have the right “stuff”/structure, and the optimal process, then your chances are better for a moist and delicious chocolate cake, or a happy, well-adjusted student, (WASK) or a solid law. Nothing is guaranteed and there are always variables you didn’t count on; the low pressure day when you bake, the student who decides he just doesn’t like school, or the law that just gets to committee at the wrong time. You also have to evaluate your outcomes over time to see if they made a lasting effect. Tomorrow in New Mexico we start to do that, but today we are celebrating a good outcome! Today we have three successful initiatives resulting in two good laws and one policy change. As of July 1st, 2007 Medicaid will increase reimbursement for hearing aids for all recipients and at a rate adequate to allow children to be fitted with the digital hearing aids appropriate for them. Insurance will cover hearing aids up to $2200/aid every three years up to age 18 and 21 if they are still in high school, and anyone in New Mexico who buys a hearing aid or a visual aid for the blind will find no state sales tax/gross receipts tax added on to their price. Today in New Mexico we have a good outcome! ~