Idina Menzel announces support for bill to ensure kids' access to hearing aids

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Broadway star Idina Menzel and Caruso founder and CEO Rick J. Caruso kicked off a statewide campaign Monday to make sure all children have access to hearing aids.

The actress and singer announced her support at The Grove for Assembly Bill 598, a new bill that would require private health insurance companies to cover the costs of hearing aids for children.

Menzel spoke on the importance of the legislation, sharing how having a niece who is hard of hearing has personally affected her, and how integral hearing is for early child development.

"My beautiful niece was at a party as a bunch of kids started singing 'Let It Go,' I swear I didn't pick that song ... my sweet little niece was standing off to the side not participating. Mom knew then and there something wasn't right," she said.

Caruso also shared how he has seen first-hand the tremendous impact that early intervention has had through his 19-year-old daughter Gianna, who was fitted with her first hearing aids at 6 months old.

Currently, there is no such coverage requirement, leaving thousands of California families with no choice but to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for medically necessary hearing aids and related services. Some children who are deaf or hard of hearing are unable to access hearing aids altogether due to the high cost and lack of mandated insurance coverage - depriving them of a critically necessary tool for language and speech development.

The bill, authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee and then to the full Senate for a vote.
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