SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would make hearing aids available to low-income children faces one more vote before final passage in the Utah Legislature.

The Senate heard HB157 Wednesday, voting in unanimous support of establishing an advisory committee within the Utah Department of Health that would be responsible for screening individuals and families for eligibility in a two-year pilot program.

The program would provide hearing aids to children under age 3 who do not qualify for Medicaid or the Utah Children's Health Insurance Program. Participants must also meet income verification requirements, showing a financial need for the service.

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Bill co-sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, said the earlier a child receives a hearing aid, the more the devices can do to better develop the sense, as well as lead to better educational outcomes. Children and families seem to incur considerable medical expenses down the road if hearing aids aren't implemented early enough.

"If we want kids who are productive … no matter what they are dealt … we have to make these kinds of investments to help move them forward," said Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City. She said all children deserve the same chance.

The bill will be heard one last time by the Senate before returning to the House for final action.

If the program is successful in helping contain costs for families and improving outcomes for children, Osmond said it would be re-evaluated by a future Legislature.

Wendy Leonard

Twitter: wendyleonards