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'It will help a lot of people': Seattle 8-year-old wants to change state hearing aid laws

The bill would require private insurance companies to offer hearing benefits.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Hugo Esterhay doesn’t like to think about what it would be like to go to school without his hearing aids.

“The idea is terrifying,” said Esterhay, an 8-year-old from Seattle.

He testified before state legislators Wednesday encouraging them to pass a bill requiring private insurance companies to offer benefits for hearing aids for children and adults.

The instruments Esterhay’s used since he was diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss at age 3, have cost his family thousands of dollars.

Esterhay started his speech saying, "I really hope you can pass this bill. I know it will help a lot of people."

“Hearing aids are not optional for us, we need them. I can’t hear without my hearing aids. It makes me really sad to know that some kids can’t have them,” Esterhay told lawmakers Wednesday afternoon.

When his mother, Jill Bujnevicie, learned insurance didn’t cover hearing aids, she contacted her state Representative, Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, the prime sponsor of House Bill 1222.

The law would require insurance companies to cover up to $5,000 for hearing instruments.

Bujnevicie said her family is fortunate they can afford Hugo’s hearing aids. She said they have helped improve her son’s performance at school.

”Without these devices Hugo never would have met his potential,” Bujnevicie told House members.

She said it's "heartbreaking" some families cannot afford hearing aids.

Current state law requires public employee health plans to offer hearing coverage. Medicaid also offers the benefits.

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