Health insurance and hearing aids


#1

Short version: Just found out that my health insurance, which never ever covered hearing aids, suddenly covers 80% ‘in network’ after deductible. Might we worthwhile to investigate whether your health insurance has started covering hearing aids too.

Background: At end of road with Costco, I decided to bite the bullet and cough up the dough for a main-stream audiologist and hearing aid. Found an audiologist on this site - under Hearing Centers in the blue band at the top of the page - made an appointment, gave them my insurance info (figuring insurance would pay for exam, and “knowing for certain” it would not cover the hardware), and was stunned when the audiologist told me different. She did the testing, convinced me I needed X, made an earmold impression, and an appointment in ~3 weeks to get the aid / earmold / fitting. I left the office with my head spinning.

At work I logged in to the HR site, link to insurance provider, no helpful info on that page but they had a “Live Chat” option. The insurance company person looked it up and confirmed that for an ‘in network’ provider (which the one I picked as noted above just happened to be) the insurance would cover 80% of the cost of the hearing aid after I met the deductible.

So - not to stir up false hopes, but things change and not always for the worse, and if your health insurance has never covered hearing aids, it might be wise to investigate whether or not that is still the case.


#2

What kind of X/(Hearing Aids) did you get? I’m thinking that maybe they are not the latest/greatest. But I could be surprised.


#3

She said that my loss is “Severe” and the “obvious best choice” was a Phonak Nadia. Haven’t got it yet.

Only one actual aid - I’m stone deaf (failed surgery) on left side so she suggested BICROS rig. Had a wired BICROS Starkey analog in the late 1990s that was the best instrument I’ve ever had. Could use a regular telephone without feedback, no speaker on the left side, just a mic.

I’m having difficulty inputting my audiogram and need to go re-read your explanation, but the way she stated it made it sound like that was the one-and-only choice.


#4

That’s a good hearing aid for a Severe Loss. Audi’s who treat severe/profound losses have their favorite hearing aids for such a loss.


#5

Thanks! I re-read it and wound up just entering zeros for the left ear, it didn’t want to accept input for the right ear only. Worked.

She seemed very competent and I’m hopeful.

But the point of this is, it is possible that, with many rock-and-roll-generation people needing hearing aids now, the insurance industry may be coming around to covering them. I would never have known (and still don’t quite believe) that my company’s health insurance plan started covering hearing instruments had the new audiologist not checked.

I just want to make folks aware that they may be covered. Certainly my company’s HR people never announced, “Look at how wonderful we are, our heath insurance now covers hearing aids!” It was all under the radar.

And thanks for confirming it is a good choice.


#6

I just looked and my insurance also now has some hearing coverage!
This is a link to Humana’s Medicare Advantage coverage but seems to be similar on other carriers.

https://press.humana.com/press-release/humana-expands-affordable-hearing-aid-benefit-medicare-advantage-plans

They sure don’t tell you it’s been added!


#7

BoCat, would you mind disclosing what kind of failed surgery caused the loss of hearing in your left ear?


#8

Stapedectomy, for otosclerosis.

Worked for a year or two, went dead, doc said the prosthesis (they used stainless steel wire in those days, not sure what they use now) slipped and “probably stabbed the cochlea”.

No response on that side, anyway.

The other (right) side still works but has clearly deteriorated over the past ~30 years.


#9

Just an FYI you can also use funds from a Health Savings Account, which can be either in your name or a spouse. For example I am on Medicare and am not eligible for a HSA however my wife has private health insurance and a HSA and I use hers. Depending on your marginal tax rate this can be quite a savings since you are using pretax money, 25% in my case.


#10

I learned a long time ago that even if your health insurance won’t cover it that you should just get a loan like CareCredit and get what you need.
Don’t waste your time with Costco and other cheap hearing aid dealers. You need up spending more money when those cheap devices don’t work out and you need to fork out the dough for the real device you needed in the first place.
You are worth it-spend the money and invest in yourself.


#11

Hahaha. Sometimes the cheap devices you refer to are actually the same device as the expensive ones. Search for Hearing Aid Lists Costco.


#12

The VA also provides free hearing aids.


#13

Yeah really (with pvc). The Costco hearing aids are made by 4 of the Big 5 manufacturers. These aren’t cheapo PSAP’s or OTC “hearing aids”. Admittedly they might be slightly de-featured like no tinnitus therapies anywhere but they’re just about the same devices as your “real devices”.


#14

Costco sells the top hearing aids from three of the big six manufacturers. Four if you count Bernafon, but they may actually be different than the Oticon line. Possibly you are aligned with an independent who competes with Costco?


#15

Thats great news bocat, I was in the same boat untill a few years ago. I had a little “after” byline in my insurance literature about hearing coverage. I checked and the insurance we had then would pay $1000.towards purchase of hearing devices. I had a set that were not worth a crap that had been
“prescribed” by a company that went out of business in less than a year after I got them. So I went to Costco and got new ones and they were hands down 10 times better. Fast forward a couple of years and my company changed insurance. Now my insurance paid up to $3000. for a set in network. Yaaaay I have a set of Oticons now that I’m on my 3rd yr. with and I will be eligble for a new set at the end of this year.


#16

I appreciate the heads-up and checked it out, but in NC with the only available ACA health insurnace, Blue Cross Blue Shield NC, pretty good coverage overall, when it comes to hearing, it’s the same old, same old. Hearing aid benefits for kids but not for adults. Not even hearing tests are covered.

Still worth checking but don’t be surprised if yours doesn’t offer it.


#17

Just to be clear: I’m not complaining about COSCO.

In 2010 I read on this Forum about COSTCO selling hearing aids, bought a Bernafon ‘Verite’ 505 from COSTCO, and it was great, for years until it quit working. There is more to that story but it is for another thread about hearing aid repairs, that has to wait a while.

There are two issues with COSTCO. The first is that they do not do “custom” rigs, like CROS or BICROS - they are not set up for that and the market for such things is so thin there is no reason they should be.

I had had a BICROS analog rig that was great, a digital one that was not, and when it came time to upgrade and I went to COSTCO I chose to forego the BICROS based on the fact that the Bernafon made speech much clearer than any digital aid I’d tried. This is not a problem with COSTCO.

The second is that the Hearing Instrument Specialist - the person who fits and tunes the hearing aids - is not fixed and constant.

If you get a really competent one great - but if that individual moves away - either to a different COSTCO or to someplace else - you will deal with whoever takes their place. That new person could be very competent, or simply a really nice guy who has little expertise in adjusting hearing aids.

If you go to an mainstream audiologist office and pay the ransom, likely you will deal with the same person until they retire, move away, or die. If you don’t like the aid or the programming, you have 30 to 60 days (state law in Texas is 30) to realize your mistake and go somewhere else.

COSTCO has the same return policy but the fitter can change - I’ve seen four different people at COSTCO since 2010 - and if the programming needs to be adjusted or you buy a new instrument, it is a new ballgame.

The “right” thing to do is to learn to program your own, as many people on this Forum do, and beat the game that way. And if it were a matter of wrenches, nuts, bolts, grease, and steel, I’d do that too. But I’m either to stupid, too lazy, or too busy to learn it.

So - not slamming COSTCO, just saying that the force that drove me to COSTCO in the first place - lack of insurance coverage - has changed. And it might have changed for others, hence this thread.


#18

You came in knowing about BICROS and made an informed decision to forego it. If someone comes in knowing nothing, and a BICROS might be the best thing for them, will Costco tell them about it?


#19

No idea. I think that would depend on the individual selling / fitting the hearing aid, their knowledge, and their ethics.

If that individual does not know that such a thing as BICROS exists, it is hard to fault them for not mentioning it. If they do know, but don’t mention it because they don’t sell it, that’s another matter.