Hunter Martin of Illiopolis saw a successful conclusion to his two-year legislative efforts Wednesday when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that was pushed by the 10-year-old in the General Assembly.
In a private ceremony in his Capitol office, Rauner signed House Bill 4516 that requires Illinois insurers to cover replacement costs of hearing aids every three years for children who are 18 or younger.
“Because they are growing, children need replacements for their hearing aids more often,” Rauner said in a statement. “The devices are costly. Children who have to go without struggle not only with day-to-day interactions, but also are at a disadvantage in their classrooms.”
Hunter and his brother Owen, 7, are both wear hearing aids. Hunter became an advocate for the insurance requirement after losing one of his hearing aids in school. It took two weeks to get a replacement and the time was challenging, he told The State Journal-Register earlier this year.
“It was rough,” he said. “It’s like putting fingers in your ears or cotton balls in your ears and then leaving it in 24/7.”
The strain of trying to listen in class was so exhausting he would often come home and take a nap after school, his mother Ramona said.
Both Ramona and her husband, Andrew, work in education. She is a social worker at Douglas School in Springfield and Andrew teaches history at Sangamon Valley Middle School in Illiopolis. Both have insurance, but the plans do not cover most hearing aids, which can cost up to $4,000.
Hunter started showing up at House and Senate committees that deal with insurance legislation and speaking out about why insurance policies need to cover hearing aids. He testified in favor of a similar bill in 2017, but it didn’t pass. He testified again this year and the legislation ended up on Rauner’s desk.
Ramona and Hunter were at Rauner’s office when he signed the bill.
“Thanks for being a strong advocate for this,” Rauner told Hunter in a video of the event released Wednesday. “Persistence is the key to success. You’re one of the youngest, most effective lobbyists in Illinois history.”
“Wow,” Hunter replied.
As governors do with significant legislation, Rauner signed the bill and gave the pens to Hunter and his mother.
Asked about his lobbying efforts before General Assembly committees, Hunter said, “It feels amazing. It’s hard work. You have to work and talk. It’s a little nervous, but it gets easier.”
Asked if he found the experience dealing with the General Assembly scary, Hunter said, “It’s a wild ride to go through.”
In addition to requiring insurers to pay for a new hearing aid every three years for those 18 and under, the new law requires medically necessary repairs to be covered and that coverage be given for ear examinations, selection, fitting and adjustment of ear molds when medically necessary.
Contact Doug Finke: email@example.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.
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