I have strong Wisconsin ties -- my sister and I were born there, even though we spent much our childhood elsewhere, and she and her family, and my parents, are all living there again now. So I'm very excited about the news that the Wisconsin legislature passed a bill requiring private insurance to pay for hearing aids and cochlear implants for children. I first heard about this a few weeks ago on cicircle. More recently I've learned that a group of Deaf protesters are going to try to persuade Governor Doyle to veto the legislation, on the premise that CIs are dangerous, expensive, and a threat to their cultural identity. Jodi has the article on her blog, as well as a link you can follow to send a letter to Doyle asking him to sign the bill.
Now, some of my nearest and dearest have libertarian leanings, and they have serious misgivings about this kind of government interference with the free market. I don't. (To the contrary, I have misgivings about something as vital and fundamental as access to health care being at the mercy of the free market.) Anyway, I encourage you to check out Jodi's blog and contact Governor Doyle.
You might be wondering what's so dangerous about CIs. Nothing, really. Okay, it's a piece of electronic gadgetry implanted into your skull, so there are inevitable attendant risks. But those risks are on the whole very very small. However, shamefully inaccurate myths continue to circulate in the Deaf community -- for example that CIs cause brain cancer (they don't).
Are they expensive? You betcha. The total costs of getting Ben implanted (pre-operative evaluation and testing, the device, the surgery, the hospital stay, follow-up mapping and evaluation, etc.) exceed $100K. Almost all of which was paid for by our insurance (albeit reluctantly). How do I feel about that? A touch guilty -- I want to apologize to my fellow NYS employees for the (almost negligible) effect this has on their premiums -- a cost to the public which is more than offset, incidentally, by long term savings in special education.
Are they a threat to Deaf culture? Only in the sense that people who receive CIs are less likely to join it, and less likely to learn ASL. Ben is deaf, and always will be. He may well choose to identify as Deaf at some point in his life, and if so all power to him. But it will be his free choice, one of many options, rather than the only viable option because of a lack of other communication modalities. I'm excited that he's learning some ASL, and I hope this will continue for a variety of reasons. Also, I will certainly expect him to be respectful of the Deaf community, just I would expect him to be respectful (to a point) of any group, regardless of the things said by their more extreme members about our family and the choices we have made. (Pick your favorite major religion for a suitable application of this principle.)