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Province to co-pay cochlear implants replacement

New co-pay model will take effect Dec. 1 to help residents who need to replace their cochlear implants devices.
Health Minister Paul Merriman, Rod Rossmo and Nairn Gillies of Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Society following the province’s announcement they will co-pay for cochlear implants processors replacement.

REGINA — The Saskatchewan government has announced it will implement a co-pay model to help residents replace their cochlear implants.

The new model will take effect Dec. 1 of this year and is expected to ease the financial burden for those needing to replace the external processors used in the cochlear implant to restore their ability to hear.

Currently the province covers costs for the initial device, the surgery and related audiology services. But replacing the external processor was not covered up to now.

Those need to be replaced every five to seven years, with costs running upwards of $8,000 to $12,000. Under this program, residents who need a replacement will pay $840 per processor and the Ministry of Health would pick up the tab for the rest. 

The Ministry of Health is providing $446,000 to cover the costs for this fiscal year, with an annual cost estimated at $300,000. It is estimated that 70 processors will need replacement in the first year and then 50 annually in future years.

The program coming into Saskatchewan is modelled after a similar co-pay model currently in place in British Columbia and other provinces.

The announcement was made at the legislature by Health Minister Paul Merriman, who was joined by Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Society Executive Director Nairn Gillies as well as Rod Rossmo, a cochlear implant user who has advocated for the province to address the issue.

Rossmo was at legislature during the spring session where he had publicly called on the government to fund the cost of replacements for those residents with cochlear implants. 

This was after Rossmo received a letter from the manufacturer of the implants, stating the cost of replacing his processor would be $23,000.

“Rod’s first thought wasn’t about himself,” said Gillies. “It was about what about all the others in the province who couldn’t possibly afford $23,000. And I tip my hat to you, sir. That’s the right way to think.”

Merriman said he met both Rossmo and Gillies “multiple times” and thanked them for sharing their concerns and experiences.

“A cochlear implant can be life-changing for Saskatchewan residents who are deaf or hard of hearing,” Merriman said.  “It can help communication with family, friends and within our community. Expanding this program to cover replacement implants helps to ensure they have that opportunity going forward.”

Gillies thanked Merriman, calling the announcement “a big part of the government’s plan for an inclusive province.”

“This is indeed an exciting moment,” said Rossmo. “I want to thank Minister Merriman for his enlightened and significant contribution to a very significant and critical problem that we had in this process in the cochlear community … Many cochlear recipients and their families are going to be celebratory today.”