My Phonak M90 purchase from eBay

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.

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Being in IT like me, I suggest you get yourself a noah wireless link and the Phonak Target 6.x application. You’ll be able to pull the programming off the HAs and save it, then tweak it so you make it more comfortable for yourself. If you screw it up, you can always go back to the saved programming or go to the audiologist. For less than the cost of one visit you can get the noah wireless link.

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I went from Oticon OPN 2’s to the Marvel M90. The streamed phone calls are different between the two brands of hearing aids. I liked the ambient noise around me that I had with Oticon, but like Marvel better. When talking to someone on the phone, sometimes it’s hard to hear the person on the other end who is wearing HA’s because the microphone in the HA will pick up any noise that is around that person. To avoid that, the microphone in the Marvel mutes. I didn’t like that and found myself raising my voice.

That was the explanation I received from my audiologist when I complained about the aid with phone calls. My audiologist was able to turn up of the microphone without turning it completely up. That’s helped. You can also have the microphone unmuted. Ask your audiologist to do that with your HA’s.

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You need to do your homework and get competing cost comparison before you buy any HA. Personally I doubt any where there is an insurance carrier that pays 100% of hearing costs, be it 2020 or 2014. Now if your in the military or under 18 years old that’s different story. If anything six years ago there was less HA insurance coverage versus today. With that said I trialed two Phonak M90 hearing aids for a combined cost of $4800. So your claim they run $6,000 to $8,000 should flash (danger - danger).

Secondly anyone who buys hearing aids through eBay should think twice. Like your really getting reliable quality service will a “full HA warranty” buying through eBay, because the seller has so many good reviews. Wonder if Craigslist is next? I’m not exactly sure what kind of story your telling, but glad your satisfied with your M90’s.

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Just to clarify, from what I understand of how the American system works, your insurance told you that they would cover 100% of the devices, the audiologist probably called them to confirm and they said “yes, 100%” and then shorted the audiologist by $2000 and admitted to an “only up to a secret amount that we didn’t tell you about in advance” clause. That’s why the audiologist came back to you.

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Check out ziphearing.com

That’s definitely in my plan. I still want to get a good program set up with someone local and establish a relationship, but I’ve already installed Target and plan on getting the Noah device soon.

And then to top it off, my wife whispers when she knows I’m talking on the phone, but she’s whispering to ME. I’ve had to explain a few times, that doesn’t work. She’ll catch on soon.

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I’m telling the story of what happened. I have no expectation that the person I bought from on eBay is going to service these (he’s out of Korea); which is why I shopped around for someone who would before I finalized the sale.

Ferlderal employees have insurance that covers hearing aids 100%. My assumption is that the contractor I worked for was matching that coverage (they did that with a lot of their benefits, since they specialize in government IT contracts). The insurance carrier was United Healthcare, and my understanding is that their normal coverage is $2500 once every three years (the policy I had with them also was limited to one set every three years). Their policy with my company said 100% coverage on approved devices with in-network providers. That’s what I told the clinic I needed on my first visit (I think I mentioned that in the narrative).

The bill on my original Q90’s was a tad over 6k. That’s what they submitted to insurance. When I went back to the same clinic in January for another audiogram, I asked about the price of the M90’s. He was vague, but said the price would be about the same as the Q90’s. I did some (admittedly light) research and found them on eBay for just shy of $2600 for the pair. When I asked how close he could come to that price (three days after my previous visit), he asked me to come by the office after work, and he’d see what he could do. When I got there, he still gave me no price, but emphasized how important it was to buy from someone that sold many brands, and that the Phonek might not even be the best choice. After insisting I wanted the bluetooth for Android feature, he said he’d check to see what he could do, and call me Monday (that was a Friday). He never called, so I placed my order on Tuesday.

To his credit, he did give me a copy of the audiogram, knowing I planned on using it for the seller to do the initial program.

His office is where I got the $6k price. This same forum is where I got the $8K price (see Phonak Audéo Marvel Hearing Aids | Models, Reviews, Prices, and Videos - I’m almost positive those are “per device” prices). Even had I found a place the would have done them for the $4800 you mentioned, I would have gone the route I did. I didn’t have $4800 to spend, and the $2200 I saved under that price would buy a LOT of unbundled visits.

Maybe that’s enough to assuage your doubt about “my story”; if not, too bad. You’re making assumptions through ignorance, I’m speaking from first hand experience.

I’m still not 100% sure this is going to work out as well as I hope, as I haven’t visited the new clinic yet; but I’ll know more on the 12th. I do know this, I’m a lot more prepared to ask pertinent questions this time around. As I said, having real money out of my own pocket has me a lot more involved this time around. I suspect that involvement is what will have me satisfied with the M90s more than the extra technology and features, but I really do like the BlueTooth.

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That may well be what happened, but I did have 2 long and heated conversations with the parent company, one of them with the insurance company conferenced in. I got the impression from them that there were models that would have been under whatever “secret threshold” there was, but they preferred to sell the better models, and have the client pay the difference. As I mentioned, they even offered one of the lower end models.

When I went in, I specifically told the clinic the coverage was for “approved devices from an in-network provider” and that was what I needed. You could be right, but I really suspect it was bait and switch, along with puppy dog sale (take him home, see if you like him). It’s probably worth mentioning that the clinic told me that the parent company has changed hands several times in the past 6 years.

Mm, for sure there are practices with predatory pricing and crappy service. But I also know for sure that figuring out what insurance covers is a daily struggle for American audiologists, and being over promised and undercut are the norm.

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The insurance company doesn’t short anyone. The price between the insurance company and the medical office (regardless of the condition or service) is negotiated before hand and the medical office shouldn’t go back to the patient for more money. Or switch to a lower quality device.

I recently had surgery. The surgical center wanted $19,500. The insurance company and the surgical center negotiated an agreed upon price, which was less than the original amount and probably much less. The surgical center can’t come after me for the difference. There was an agreement and they have to abide by it.

So if the 100% the insurance paid for his HAs were less than the sticker price and the hearing center agreed to the price; then the hearing center can’t go back to the patient and demand the difference. It is something that happens on occasion and the medical center tries to take advantage of a patient’s lack of knowledge. And it doesn’t usually happen by reputable companies.

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Just saying most posters here don’t have 100% insurance coverage to pick up the cost of hearing aids. If you had that great - though its a rarity. And most posters here don’t buy hearing aids off eBay. Time to move on.

I have bought hearing aids off eBay for the past 11 years, all Phonak for self programming/personal reasons.
Call it lucky but all have proven to function as designed and 2 particular pairs I still have from back then still function as they should.
My latest buy from eBay is a set of Audeo M90 RT aids. They are just like new and function perfectly.
I do try to communicate with the sellers prior to buying just to get a feel for them.

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I realize that most insurance doesn’t cover 100%, that doesn’t make my story any less true. As far as purchasing on eBay, I got the idea of checking eBay from this forum. Specifically this post:

Please also make note of the price the poster mentioned.

It probably goes without saying - your experiences, even the experiences of the majority, are not necessarily the same experiences of all.

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They do. Otherwise American audiologists are just a pile of dummies who can’t figure it out and spend all day complaining to eachother about how hard the insurance companies make it to figure out what they actually cover. I don’t believe that; these people have doctorates.

We don’t have the same insurance set ups up here in Canada, so don’t experience the same issues. Even so, my province’s noise induced hearing loss workplace coverage sometimes rakes back billed money based on secret unpublished rules that we cannot get anyone to clarify and don’t seem to be documented anywhere. We don’t balance bill the patient, we just eat it.

hparsons,
I think you will love the Marvels. Most do. My experience hasn’t been so positive, but then I am not your average hearing aid wearer. I have used mine a few times with my phone and they do pretty well. You can vary the amount of microphone gain when on a call. Unfortunately, this is done through Target, and isn’t easily user adjustable. One thing i have noticed when using mine is that since the aid microphones are used to send your voice, they puck up a lot of background noise. Every time I have ever used mine and talked to my wife, she always comments on what ever is going on in the background. I don’t hear it all that much. but she sure does.

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That’s a negative I’m experiencing, and I hope it can be corrected some (from others, sounds like it can be).

That said, eve if it can’t be, I’m sure I’m going to like this setup better.

I’ve resorted to having the volume all the way up on my phone, and a program that automatically sets it to speaker when I answer. Even then, I sometimes couldn’t understand phone calls. It was so bad that once, when I took my six month old Samsung S8 I for an unrelated issue, the tech asked me “How have you not noticed the blown speaker?” I was embarrassed to tell her my hearing was bad I could barely even hear the speaker.

They fixed it under warranty, so it turned out OK. But this is SO much better. Now I’ve turned the volume down, and removed the auto speaker program, and can talk (and hear) normally.

I can relate to your experience with insurance and " Recommended" audi’s. I retired last year but knowing I was going to I checked my Ins. at work for the “current” policy because over the years it changed several times. So at the time they would pay $3000. per set every 3 years if using a recommended clinic. I called in for a list of clinics and found 3 listed within 30 miles of me. As you did I called one of them and set up an appt. I won’t go into all of it here again but if you click my profile and look at the " I might have messed up" thread you can see a really similar story. So I for on do believe your “story”. Good luck to you in the future on getting every thing set up right.

Glad that is working out for you. I too would like to purchase hearing aids from ebay. But how does one go about finding a local audiologist who would be willing to program hearing aids that were purchased somewhere else?