Effective December 1, 2022, Saskatchewan is moving to implement a co-pay model for the Cochlear Implant Program to help residents who need to replace their devices.

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that processes sound to partially restore hearing. The external processor typically needs to be replaced every five to seven years at a cost of between $8,000 and $12,000.

“I’ve heard from Saskatchewan residents about the role cochlear implants have in improving their ability to communicate with family, friends and colleagues,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said.  “I’m pleased to announce this expansion, which will ensure that these life-changing devices remain accessible for all our residents.”

The province currently covers the costs of the initial device, the surgery to install the implant and related audiology services.

“I applaud the government for solving the cochlear implant situation in Saskatchewan,” Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Society Executive Director Nairn Gillies said. “This action will have a profound impact in the lives of those who rely on this technology to improve their hearing and give them access.”

The Ministry of Health estimates that approximately 70 sound processors will need to be replaced this fiscal year, and approximately 50 devices annually.

Health is providing approximately $446,000 to cover the additional cost of replacing processors this fiscal year with annual costs estimated to be around $300,000. The ministry is establishing the program in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

The Saskatchewan cochlear processor replacement program expansion will see resident’s co-pay $840 for each new device and the Ministry of Health will pay the remainder. This is modelled after a similar program in British Columbia.

Government co-pay programs exist in other provinces, including: Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta to assist with the cost of replacing external sound processors.