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A petition for the government to include funding for replacements for cochlear implant processors when they reach the end of their life.

On  Wednesday March 10, a  read a petition in the Manitoba Legislature to request  that the government consider funding (under medicare) of the  replacement  of  processors for cochlear implants.   Hearing is very important to all of us, and ensuring   that those with cochlear  implants can continue to  usethe implant  is very  important.  The petition I read is below (from  Hansard). 

Cochlear Implant Program

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights):  Madam Speaker, I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly.

      The background to this petition is as follows:

      People who suffer hearing loss due to aging, illness, employment or accident not only lose the ability to communicate effectively with friends, relatives or colleagues; they can also experience unemployment, social isolation and struggles with mental health.

      A cochlear implant is a life-changing electronic device that allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to receive and process sounds and speech, and also can partially restore hearing in people who have severe hearing loss and who do not benefit from conventional hearing aids. A processor behind the ear captures and processes sound signals which are transmitted to a receiver implanted into the skull that relays the information to the inner ear, the cochlea.

      The technology's been available since 1989 through the Central Speech and Hearing Clinic, founded in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Surgical Hearing Implant program began implementing patients–implanting patients in the fall of 2011 and marked the completion of 250 cochlear implant surgeries in Manitoba in the summer of 2018. The program has implanted about 60 devices since the summer of 2018 and–as it is only able to implant about 40 to 50–45 devices per year.

      There are no upfront costs to Manitoba residents who proceed with cochlear implant surgery, as Manitoba Health covers the surgical procedure, internal implant and the first external sound processor. Newfoundland and Manitoba have the highest estimated implantation costs of all provinces.

      Alberta has one of the best programs with Alberta aids for daily living, and their cost share means the patient pays only approximately $500 out of pocket. Assistive divisive program in Ontario covers 75 per cent of the cost, up to a maximum amount of $5,444, for a cochlear implant replacement speech processor.

      The BC Adult Cochlear Implant Program offers subsidized replacements to aging sound pro­cessors through the Sound Processor Replacement program. This provincially funded program is available to those cochlear implant recipients whose sound processors have reached six to seven years of age.

      The cochlear implant is a lifelong commitment, however. As the technology changes over time, parts and software become no longer functional or available.

      The cost of upgrading a cochlear implant in Manitoba of approximately $11,000 is much more expensive than in other provinces, as adult patients are responsible for the upgrade costs of their sound processor.

      In Manitoba, pediatric patients, under 18 years of age, are eligible for funding assistance through the Cochlear Implant Speech Processor Replacement Program, which provides up to 80 per cent of the replacement costs associated with a device upgrade.

      It is unreasonable that this technology's in­accessible to many citizens of Manitoba who must choose between hearing and deafness due to financial constraints because the costs of maintaining the equipment are prohibitive for low-income earners or those on a fixed income, such as an old age pension or Employment and Income Assistance.

      We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge the provincial government to provide financing for upgrades to the cochlear implant covered under medicare, or provide funding assistance through the Cochlear Implant Speech Processor Replacement Program to assist with the replacement costs associated with a device upgrade.

      Signed by Wilma Greatrex, Len [phonetic] Greatrex and Wendy Greatrex, and many, many other Manitobans.

      Thank you.

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