Valley boy awaits ear implant for chance at hearing
A valley boy may not be able to hear for the rest of his life unless he gets a special ear implant.Photo: Video by ktnv.com
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A valley boy may not be able to hear for the rest of his life unless he gets a special ear implant. But a reduction in facilities who perform the procedure has left his family waiting and wondering why.
Francisco Santoyo, 2, loves to play with the phone, except he struggles to hear the sounds. His mother, Jsha Santoyo, said she noticed the problem about seven months ago.
"When I tried to scream and clap my hands, too, and it's not working," Jsha said.
Jsha, pronounced jay-shuh, said doctors told her Francisco has profound loss of hearing.
"You don't know what's going to happen to him when he grows up," she said.
The cochlear implant could make the difference. The device is different from a hearing aid but could allow Francisco to hear some noises and learn speech. But Action News has learned most hospitals in the Las Vegas area do not perform the procedure.
"The facilities stopped doing it because they're losing a lot of money," Jsha.
Francisco is on Medicaid. Officials at University Medical Center said the cochlear implant itself can cost up to $30,000 and Medicaid generally only reimburses those facilities about two-thirds of that.
"He's already delayed and if he didn't get the implant, what's going to happen to him," Jsha said.
UMC said it was one of the last major hospitals in the region to offer the implant to Medicaid patients when it ended the service in 2010. Chief executive officer Brian Brannman told Action News the hospital simply cannot afford it.
"There's been a lot of angst about that because it's clear with children, you understand that cochlear implants make a miraculous - it's a life changing event," said Brannman.
Medicaid would generally reimburse the hospital about $19,000 for the implant, leaving the facility to pick up the remaining $10,000 or so, Brannman said. Those numbers do not cover the costs for the hospital stay. Given limited funding, Brannman said Medicaid probably cannot afford to increase its reimbursement rates and the hospital cannot afford to cover the difference.
"Without a reimbursement rate that even approaches the cost of providing that procedure, it's just not something that's feasible," Brannman said.
Three facilities around the valley performed the procedure for Medicaid patients within the last year, said Mary Woods, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. They include Surgery Center of Southern Nevada, Seven Hills Surgery Center and Durango Outpatient Surgery Center, Woods said in an email.
The staff at Durango Outpatient Surgery Center told Action News over the phone their facility operates differently and under different circumstances than a traditional hospital which allows them to offer the service for both privately-insured and Medicaid patients. Action News reached out to the other two facilities but did not hear back.
After our initial interview, Francisco's doctor said he received approval to complete the procedure for Francisco at one of the three facilities but is currently awaiting approval from Medicaid. Depending on the response, the doctor said he may be able to schedule the procedure.
Until then, the silence is anything but golden.