My first hearing aids were insurance-paid, after some haggling with the provider. I won’t mention names, but I went to them because my insurance at the time stated they covered HAs 100% with an in-network provider. I went where they told me, and made it clear that that I was using them because they were in-network, my insurance company paid 100% for covered hearing aids, and I needed what they covered.
The clinic set me up with Phonak Q90s (this was six years ago). They were great, but after owning them about a month, I got a notice from the clinic that I owned more money because the insurance only covered part of the bill (I don’t even remember the $$ amounts, but I think they wanted me to pay an additional $2000 out of the $6000). I called and argued with them, they held fast, and offered to let me return the HAs for a cheaper set. I called the insurance company, who then contacted the company I worked for (a very large IT contract company). The insurance company then sent a certified letter to the clinic stating that if I was further harassed or if they turned my account over for collection, they would be removed as an in-network provider, and that I was to be allowed to keep the hearing aids I took home. The demand for payment stopped, and the audiologist continued treating me. Sometimes insurance companies work.
Now it’s six years later, I’ve changed employers (still work at the same place, but a different contract company holds the contract), and the insurance doesn’t cover hearing aids. I had become pretty non-compliant on wearing mine, because I take them out to use the phone, or to put in earbuds (which I use for the phone and occasional streaming), and then misplace them for a few days. Last time, one of our dogs got one, and chewed up the receiver. I finally went back in and got that replaced after not wearing them for several months. I KNEW I had to do something to make me wear them more, and decided that the BlueTooth enabled Phonak Marvels were what I needed. But, I didn’t have the $6000 - $8000 that clinics wanted.
I found a seller on eBay that sells the M90s for just shy of $2600 for a pair, and then searched around for a clinic that would work with me on a pay-per-visit basis (they will charge me $200 for my first appointment to modify the program that I have now).
I understand that audiologists and clinics have to make money. That said, I felt I was a victim of bait and switch, maybe a “puppy dog sale”, or a combination of both the first time around. I was glad my insurance company worked that issue the way they did.
It took me several months to understand the “bundling” that was done on my HAs the first time around. I used to go in for visits, and ask my audiologist what business model allowed me to come back for 2-3 appointments a year not pay him anything. He never really answered, just said that they take care of the HAs after they sell them. I finally figured out that the bundling after looking into buying new aids on my own.
Similarly, I understand that I run something of a risk buying a set of HAs on eBay the way I did, but it seems to be working out. The HAs came in after a reasonable amount of time. They had an audiologist program them using my audiogram that was done in mid-January, and I’ve been wearing them for a week, and they seem fine. I don’t mind paying a premium amount to the audiologist for unbundled visits, as I didn’t go to my previous audiologist very often (usually at the prompting of his office calling me to remind me to make a visit).
I’m hoping the audiologist that I’m going to is satisfactorily up on Phonak Marvels, and can set me up to do remote programming as needed. As I said, I don’t mind paying for that unbundled service, and believe this will work out well for me.
BTW, the M90’s have been great. Probably my biggest complaint is that they turn down the ambient sound too much when a phone call comes in, but I’m going to speak to the audiologist about that. I’m also hoping to have a couple of programming tweaks made that I think will benefit me.
One BIG difference I’ve noticed this time around, I’ve gotten more “involved” with these hearing aids. There’s something to be said about the difference between insurance covering them, and having to dig the money out of my own pocket (or, in this case, my health savings account). Maybe if I’d had a deductible the first time around, I would have been a better patient.