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Insurers will pay for hearing aids in Washington, thanks to 8-year-old’s testimony

A new state law requires coverage of up to $6,000, for adults and children in part due to testimony from 8-year-old Hugo and his friends.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Hugo Esterhay’s parents were devastated when doctors said their three-year-old son had mild to moderate hearing loss.

Their health insurance did not cover the purchase of hearing aids, but his parents were able to afford them and other devices allowing his pre-school teachers to speak directly to Hugo.

Hugo, now eight, said his hearing aids help him play with others and understand what’s happening in his second-grade class.

“Without these, I would be lost in school,” said Hugo.

Hugo’s parents could not believe insurance companies were not required to provide any hearing aid coverage. 

“It’s just unacceptable," said Hugo's mother, Jill Bujnevicie. "There are children and adults that go without hearing aids who need them."

She contacted her local state representative, Rep. Tina Orwall, (D) Des Moines.

“I was so surprised that this wasn’t covered, it seemed so fundamental,” said Orwall.

She sponsored a bill requiring insurance companies cover up to $6,000 in hearing aid expenses.

Orwall first sponsored the bill in 2020, but it didn’t pass until this year’s session.

Orwall credits the testimony from Hugo, who in January told members of the House of Representatives that hearing aids are necessary for kids and adults.

Other children who are deaf or hard of hearing also testified as the bill made its way through the legislature.

“Hugo and all his friends just really came to Olympia and turned everyone’s heart on this issue,” said Orwall.

Thursday morning Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law.

“I have a special junior legislator, Mr. Esterhay today, who has been an advocate for this,” said Inslee, (D) Washington, with Hugo standing beside him.

Hugo received the pen the governor used to sign the bill into law.

“I made a law,” said Hugo following the bill signing ceremony.

Watch: KING 5's State Politics playlist

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