To provide a second Cochlear Implant and provide support through the period a user is considered a child (up to 18 years old) costs:
- Increase in surgery costs and cost of second Cochlear Implant system = $34,000
- Increase in spares, repairs and batteries over 18 years = $13,500
- Three upgrades over 18 years = $31,500
That’s a maximum total cost over 18 years of $79,000 per child.
Offsetting this cost are what we believe are the following gains:
- Reduction in the support required at school
All children with Cochlear Implants are entitled to High Need Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding. This equates to a minimum of $19,000 per year (Approximately $10,000 in direct specialist teacher funding and $9,000 in ORS administration funding). They are also eligible to Teacher Aid funding which varies by need. One year’s Teacher Aid funding might be in the vicinity of $7,000. So a reduction in a year’s worth of school support could well save in-excess of $25,000. However there are significant other service provisions such as AoDC time, Speech Language Therapist time and Cochlear Implant Habilitationist time on top of this. When these additional resources are added on, the true figure for the support of a child with Cochlear Implants is somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000.
A unilaterally implanted child is likely to require ongoing support through their entire schooling. A bilaterally implanted child should, if implanted early, should require little if any support at school.
Unfortunately the funding for support is in the Ministry of Education’s budget – not the Ministry of Health’s budget, where the cost of a second funded Cochlear Implant would land.
- A reduction in the cost of surgery, if done simultaneously
A second Cochlear Implant installed sequentially costs $50,000. If the implant can be installed simultaneously, the cost is only $34,000 because of the economies of scale around surgical costs, travel and therapy. For the 46 Cochlear Implants funded annually for children, that is a saving of $644,000. This saving is a nominal saving as most families can’t afford the $34,000, let alone the $50,000.
In addition to these financial gains, there are the benefits to the child of having full binaural hearing.
We believe these gains are significant and add to the overall productivity of society.
We would also point out that that in the United Kingdom the NHS is now “catching up” those who only received a single implant. When New Zealand adopts this policy of providing bilateral implants to children simultaneously, every year that goes by adds at least $736,000 to the cost of this exercise. We would argue the Ministry of Health needs to address this issue sooner rather than later.