Will Insurance Cover My Hearing Aids?
When people are thinking about moving forward with treating their hearing loss with hearing aids, the two most common questions asked are, how much do hearing aids cost, and will my insurance cover the cost of the hearing aids?
Because every single insurance plan is different, hearing aid coverage has become a very complex issue, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Almost every insurance company provides coverage for diagnostic hearing testing. This provides the information needed to determine IF you have a hearing loss, the location of the damage, the severity of the loss and if an amplification system will even help you. This information is vital for your audiologist to determine the best treatment options for your lifestyle, expectations and budget.
- Between insurance carriers the coverage for hearing aids, if it is even offered, is vastly different between providers and between each specific plan. These plans can vary widely even within the same insurance company. One plan may offer some sort of hearing aid coverage, while another will not. As a general rule regular Medicare does NOT offer any hearing aid benefit. So, this means that even though you and your friend may both have the same insurance provider, you may have completely different plans with different coverage. It is always best to be proactive and call your insurance provider to learn the specifics of your coverage.
- Even if your insurance company offers benefit or helps cover the cost of the hearing aids, you will need to meet your deductible before that benefit kicks in. So lets say you have a high deductible, say $6000, you will need to meet that before any benefit is offered.
- You need to understand the difference between real hearing aid benefit and the insurance's promotion of a low-end heraing aid that is sold directly through your provider. I can not stress this enough. Not all hearing aids can be compared to each other. Some of these companies promote a "hearing aid benefit" that is the distribution of a VERY basic, low-end device that you could purchase on your own. You need to understand exactly what is being offered and your options. In many cases the benefits will restrict your choice to a specific device, provider or that your device be obtained through a third party distribution center. Depending on your hearing loss this may or may not be appropriate for you. It is only a benefit if what you receive actually helps you.
- Hearing aids qualify for health savings and flex spending accounts. You can deduct the cost off of your taxes if you itemize your medical expenses. At this time there is not a tax credit for hearing aids. Recently Congress moved to release the FDA requirement that medical clearance be obtained before getting hearing aids. This is a terrible idea. You should know where the hearing loss is, the severity and IF there is some medical issue that needs to be addressed. This law allows for over-the-counter amplification devices (NOT hearing aids) to become available. These are not actual hearing aids, but amplifiers with 1970's technology.
The tl;dr here is that while many insurance companies are starting to offer hearing aid benefit, it is important that YOU contact your insurance comany to know the details of your specific plan for both in and out of network coverage. In the ever changing scope of the American healthcare system, it is important that everyone take a proactive stance in understanding their benefits. In many cases, you may save a lot more money out of pocket with an out of network provider that has lower hearing aid prices.
Paige Peterson AuD, PhD, CCC-A, FAAA, ABA