Leah Vukmir Voted Against Coverage For Deaf Children

Vukmir sided with insurance companies to oppose a bipartisan measure requiring insurers to cover hearing aids and cochlear implants for kids

MADISON -- Today, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin held a media call on Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir opposition to a bipartisan 2009 bill to "help deaf children hear."

Senate Bill 27 was passed in Wisconsin’s state Senate by voice vote and it passed the Assembly on a 80 to 16 vote, with Vukmir siding with insurance companies over Wisconsinites in need of coverage. Prior to the bill’s passage,Wisconsin children were not guaranteed coverage for cochlear implants, meaning that some families had to pay tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses for the costly procedure, which can cost as much as $100,000.

According to the Associated Press, Vukmir at the time complained that it was simply too expensive to require insurance companies to cover Wisconsin kids’ hearing aids and cochlear implants. Vukmir made similar comments to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, saying, "People are losing their jobs, the cost of health care is increasing, and you're just going to add to it."

Throughout her career, Vukmir has stood with corporate special interest group ALEC against imposing coverage mandates on insurance companies. In 2014, Vukmir was the only Wisconsin Senator to vote two times against forcing insurance companies to cover sick Wisconsinites’ oral chemotherapy treatments. Vukmir today supports multiple efforts to gut federal protections that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to or jacking up prices on Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions.

Background

Vukmir Opposed Legislation Requiring Insurers To “Help Deaf Children Hear,” Despite The Support Of All Republican Senators And Many Republican Assembly Members

April 2009: Vukmir Was One Of Only 16 State Assembly Members To Vote Against Requiring Insurers To Cover Hearing Aids For Children. On April 23, 2009, Vukmir voted against Senate Bill 27 “requiring health insurance coverage of hearing aids and cochlear implants for persons under 18 years of age.” The bill passed by a vote of 80 to 16 and was signed into law. [Senate Bill 27, 2009 Assembly Journal 145, 4/23/2009]

·       Senate Bill 27 Required Disability Insurance Policies To Provide Coverage For The Cost Of Hearing Aids And Cochlear Implants. “Senate Bill 27 requires that, with specified exceptions, every disability insurance policy and every governmental self-insured health plan must provide coverage for the cost of hearing aids and cochlear implants that are recommended by a physician or licensed audiologist, in accordance with accepted professional medical or audiological standards, for a covered child who is under 18 years of age and is certified as deaf or hearing impaired by a physician or licensed audiologist. In addition, the policy or plan must cover the cost of treatment related to hearing aids and cochlear implants, including procedures for implantation of cochlear devices, for a child. Coverage of the cost of hearing aids is not required to exceed the cost of one hearing aid per ear per child more often than once every three years.” [Wisconsin Legislative Council, 04/21/2009]

The Bill Passed The Wisconsin State Senate On A Voice Vote

Wisconsin Senate Approved Bill To Require Insurers To Cover Hearing Aids And Cochlear Implants On A Voice Vote. “Health insurers would be required to cover the cost of hearing aids and cochlear implants for hearing-impaired children under a bill that passed both houses of the Legislature on Thursday. The measure cleared the Assembly 80-16, while the Senate approved it on a voice vote; both houses have Democratic majorities. It now heads to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who is expected to sign it.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 04/23/2009]

…And Was Signed Into Law By Governor Jim Doyle

Doyle Signed Bill To Require Insurers To Cover Hearing Aids And Cochlear Implants Into Law. “Wisconsin has become the second state to require insurance companies to cover cochlear implants for deaf children, according to a national group. Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill into law today that requires private health insurance plans to pay for cochlear implants, hearing aids and related treatment for anyone under the age of 18. Lawmakers approved it last month.” [Twin Cities Pioneer Press, 05/20/2009]

Beloit Daily News: “New Wis. Bill Would Help Deaf Children Hear”

Headline: “New Wis. Bill Would Help Deaf Children Hear.” [Beloit Daily News, 04/30/2009]

Associated Press: “Wisconsin Has Become The Second State To Require Insurance Companies To Cover Cochlear Implants For Deaf Children.”“Wisconsin has become the second state to require insurance companies to cover cochlear implants for deaf children. Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill into law today that requires private health insurance plans to pay for cochlear implants, hearing aids and related treatment for anyone under the age of 18. Lawmakers approved it last month. Cochlear implants turn sound into electrical impulses that activate the hearing nerve, allowing the deaf to hear. Some insurers have not covered their cost, which can be $50,000. Wisconsin's insurance commissioner estimates the law will cost the state's 1.6 million privately insured residents about 17 cents a month apiece.” [Associated Press, 05/21/2009]

Bill Covering Hearing Aids For Deaf Children Only Would Have Cost Privately Insured Wisconsinites 17 Cents A Month

Associated Press: “Wisconsin's Insurance Commissioner Estimates The Law Will Cost The State's 1.6 Million Privately Insured Residents About 17 Cents A Month Apiece.” “Wisconsin has become the second state to require insurance companies to cover cochlear implants for deaf children. Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill into law today that requires private health insurance plans to pay for cochlear implants, hearing aids and related treatment for anyone under the age of 18. Lawmakers approved it last month. Cochlear implants turn sound into electrical impulses that activate the hearing nerve, allowing the deaf to hear. Some insurers have not covered their cost, which can be $50,000. Wisconsin's insurance commissioner estimates the law will cost the state's 1.6 million privately insured residents about 17 cents a month apiece.” [Associated Press, 05/21/2009]

Vukmir Was Among A Small Group Of Legislators Who “Raised Objections About Adding A Mandate For Insurance Companies”

Vukmir Was Among A Small Group Of Legislators Who “Raised Objections About Adding A Mandate For Insurance Companies.” “Health insurers would be required to cover the cost of hearing aids and cochlear implants for hearing-impaired children under a bill that passed both houses of the Legislature on Thursday. The measure cleared the Assembly 80-16, while the Senate approved it on a voice vote; both houses have Democratic majorities. It now heads to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who is expected to sign it. […] Some also raised objections about adding a mandate for insurance companies, which opponents said would drive up the cost of insurance. ‘People are losing their jobs, the cost of health care is increasing, and you're just going to add to it,’ said Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa).” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 04/23/2009]

Two Years Later, Vukmir Authored Legislation To Ignore State Mandates Requiring Coverage For Cochlear Implants As Well As Conditions Such As Autism And Mental Health Problems

Vukmir Authored Legislation To Restrict Insurance Coverage “For A Broad Variety Of Medical Treatments And Conditions Including Autism, Cochlear Implants, And Mental Health Problems.” “Republican lawmakers are working on a pair of bills that would allow insurance policies in Wisconsin to ignore state mandates requiring coverage for a broad variety of medical treatments and conditions, including autism, cochlear implants and mental health problems. […] The new legislation, dubbed "Health Choices and Opportunities" by authors Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, is expected to be introduced within the next week or two, and was being circulated late last month with a Feb. 28 deadline for sponsorship, according to two legislative aides. Several calls to Vukmir's and Nygren's offices seeking official comment have not been returned.” [The Capital Times, 03/09/2011]

·       The Legislation “Would Allow Insurance Policies In Wisconsin To Ignore State Mandates Requiring Coverage For A Broad Variety Of Medical Treatments And Conditions, Including Autism, Cochlear Implants And Mental Health Problems.” “Republican lawmakers are working on a pair of bills that would allow insurance policies in Wisconsin to ignore state mandates requiring coverage for a broad variety of medical treatments and conditions, including autism, cochlear implants and mental health problems. […] The new legislation, dubbed "Health Choices and Opportunities" by authors Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, is expected to be introduced within the next week or two, and was being circulated late last month with a Feb. 28 deadline for sponsorship, according to two legislative aides. Several calls to Vukmir's and Nygren's offices seeking official comment have not been returned.” [The Capital Times, 03/09/2011]

Autism Society Of Wisconsin On Vukmir’s Health Proposal: “I Am Appalled At The Cruelty Of This Legislation.” “The new legislation, dubbed ‘Health Choices and Opportunities’ by authors Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, is expected to be introduced within the next week or two, and was being circulated late last month with a Feb. 28 deadline for sponsorship, according to two legislative aides. Several calls to Vukmir's and Nygren's offices seeking official comment have not been returned. I learned about the bills from a story in Monday's online Wisconsin Health News, which quotes a memo distributed by the authors as claiming the pair of bills ‘expands on our reform agenda by addressing additional needs of small business and individuals looking for affordable health insurance policies.’ Advocates voiced dismay at what would appear to be the imminent undoing of years of work to achieve the mandates. ‘I am appalled at the cruelty of this legislation,’ says Nissan Bar-Lev, the president of the Autism Society of Wisconsin, who knew nothing about the proposals until I called him.” [Capital Times, 03/09/2011]