MARYVILLE, TN—Only rarely are hearing aids the subject of political campaigns. However, Tennessee’s recently enacted policy of requiring health insurance companies to cover hearing aids for children has led to charges and countercharges from the two candidates for the Republican nomination for state senator in Tennessee’s 2nd District.
Scott Hughes, who is challenging the incumbent, Sen. Doug Overbey, asserted on his new campaign web site that while his opponent may “call his voting record ‘conservative,’ I believe that the truth shows something quite different.”
Specifically, Hughes accuses the incumbent of having “sponsored numerous bills imposing government mandates on health insurers to cover everything from hearing aids to gastric bypass and weight-loss surgeries, raising the cost of health insurance by millions of dollars statewide.”
In defending his vote for the hearing aid bill, Overbey told The Daily Times, a Maryville newspaper, that it did not raise health care costs by millions. He said that the bill put a $1000 cap on hearing aid costs per child and allowed replacement instruments only every three years. He said, “I think what it reflects was just pennies on premiums.”
The senator added, “Once they have hearing aids, these children can go to school and keep up with their classmates and graduate high school with their cohort. What we are talking about is improving children’s lives and helping to make them productive citizens.”
Tennessee is one of about 20 states in the country that require health insurance companies to cover hearing aids for children.
Hughes, who opposes government mandates on private businesses, told The Daily Times, “I’m not saying that health insurance companies should not cover hearing aids for kids, but it points to a bigger issue with Doug. That is the issue of large government, large regulations, and getting involved in private industry with a mandate.
GOP voters in the district will choose their nominee in the primary election on August 2. Whether or not the hearing aid mandate will be a determining factor in the outcome remains to be seen.