A wide-ranging bill addressing a number of children’s health issues was heard before the state Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor Wednesday.
Senate Bill 90 would require health insurance plans to cover the cost of hearing aids for children; revise requirements for testing children for lead; provide vouchers to purchase diapers, and provide grants to promote healthy diet and exercise for children.
Several parents gave personal testimony about the difficulty of affording hearing devices for their deaf or hard of hearing children, which parents said can range in cost from $900 to $1,800, or even more in some cases.
“Paying over $2,000.00 per hearing aid for our son was going to be a real struggle for our family,” said Kinnsi Sigler during testimony. “For a moment we tried to convince ourselves that the hearing aids he had were good enough, but it was too heartbreaking not being able to communicate with our son. He would cry after pre-school because he didn’t understand what was being said in the classroom.”
The bill would also decrease the number of acceptable lead levels in children from 10 ug/DL—a measurement for blood lead levels— to 5 ug/DL in order to comply with Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists recommendations. The new grading would also require qualified laboratory testing for lead and the office of a healthcare provider to report the results to the appropriate health authority.
According to the policy brief in the bill’s exhibits, less than three percent of Nevada’s 200,000 children are screened for lead, making Nevada one of the lowest screening states in the nation. Doctors warn that there’s no safe level of lead exposure. High doses of lead can lead to seizures, coma, and death. But even blood lead levels below 10 micrograms per deciliter in children can lead to poor performance in school, loss of IQ, attention deficits, and behavioral issues.
Lack of programs for diaper assistance is addressed by the broad bill as well, and looks to appropriate $1,000,000 to the Department of Health and Human Services to provide vouchers of $25 to participants in WIC who are parents of children who are less than 4 years of age for the purchase of diapers.
The National Diaper Bank Network submitted a letter in support of the bill adding that they recognize “the importance of clean diapers to all babies.”
On average a child uses about 240 diapers per month which costs a family approximately $70 to $80 a month, according to the organization. The Center for Economic Policy Research estimates that the poorest fifth of U.S. families spend nearly fourteen percent of their post-tax income on diapers.
Additionally, the bill earmarks grant money for various organizations that focus on children’s health issues. It would allocate $100,000 to the Division of Public and Behavioral Health to award grants to nonprofit organizations to fund training and technical assistance concerning proper nutrition and physical activity for providers of child care. And $400,000 would be allocated to the Nevada Silver State Stars Quality Rating and Improvement System to award grants to providers of childcare to improve facilities to support a healthy diet and exercise for children.