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Hearing care and insurance
Talk about confusing. Hearing care (that is, hearing aids and related equipment) has long been something that was not covered by most insurances and for the most part remains that way, with of course a host of complications that make it harder for us to say that no insurances cover hearing aids.
We will start off with the more simple and easy to explain: Medicare does not cover hearing aids or hearing testing related to obtaining hearing aids. That has not changed. What HAS changed is the Medicare supplement plans such as AARP that claim to provide hearing aid benefits. Since these plans often follow Medicare guidelines, no insurance plan associated with Medicare provides hearing aid benefits. We define hearing aid benefits or hearing aid coverage as an actual monetary benefit meaning that you get a dollar amount towards hearing aids.
You may notice that AARP advertises discounts and additional benefits through a company called HearUSA, otherwise known as HearX. Since this partnership between the two companies is advertised in AARP publications, mailings, etc… it is often confused that AARP provides hearing aid insurance. However when you look a bit closer, you see that HearX pays AARP in order to advertise through them. This “benefit” is simply a discount program, and when it comes to discounts and hearing aids (or discounts in general!) often times that discount is off of an inflated price so that discount does not mean very much at all.
It does not stop there however! United Healthcare, one of the largest insurers in the US, recently started “hi Health Innovations”. This has become United Healthcares tool for being able to offer “hearing aid coverage”. Essentially what hi Health innovations is, is an online hearing aid retailer. Now, online hearing aids are a whole different issue than what we will be discussing in this post however the confusion comes in because this company is something that is marketed to anyone covered by United Healthcare as a hearing aid benefit. Although these hearing aids can be purchased at a considerably lower price than a traditional hearing aid, you are purchasing something online which presents a whole host of issues the major one(s) being it is not safe and it in many cases, the outcome is unsatisfactory.
There are also hearing healthcare benefits programs such as “Epic” Hearing and “HearPO”. Some insurance companies partner with these companies to be able to offer a hearing aid benefit. Now, this model although not perfect and in our opinion, not really any more beneficial for the patient then coming directly to us, requires you to see a hearing healthcare professional for your hearing care and for that we cannot knock it. This is something that truly cannot be skipped. The way these benefit programs work is you are referred to an actual office with a licensed professional and everything is essentially the same as if you went as a private pay patient. There are set prices that they have, much like us, however many of the benefits that you get by coming to us directly are removed such as lifetime care and adjustments, free batteries, etc… (Services that can make or break your experience with hearing aids). When you consider the similar pricing that you would get simply going to an office as a private pay patient, the benefits of having a program like this really are very little.
The best advice we can give, and do give in our office when the issue of insurance arises, is to compare apples to apples. If your insurance company is sending you somewhere
How do you get the hearing aids? Is it in an established office?
Who is fitting those device(s)? The actual devices themselves are only part of the puzzle, they need to be programmed properly and adjusted for the patients unique hearing difficulties, preferences, etc..
Is there really a cost savings? Consider everything!
Many times the only true insurance benefit that patients have are those which provide a dollar amount reimbursement either directly to the patient or to the provider. This type of coverage, although few and far between, is the only type of true coverage which allows you the freedom to choose a practice where you know you will get the best outcome possible.
The unfortunate part about hearing care is that for the most part it is not covered by insurance. Even in countries where hearing aids are a covered expense, the hearing aids are very basic and in some instances not fit properly. This leaves even those that get free hearing aids to explore different options and could lead us down a whole other road of discussion!
Hopefully these words have provided a bit of direction for our readers when considering insurance and hearing aids.