Transparency of Hearing Aid Prices

Some hearing aid providers whether they are independents or large chains, do not list their prices and have no available price list.

On making enquiries for a price list, you are told to ring them or book a hearing test. I experienced this with a regional hearing aid company recently.

Now, I am not a time waster. I want to shop around for the best price, and don’t want to spend hours going to each establishment, having my time wasted - not theirs.

Also, the large chains like Specsavers and David Ormerod have totally nebulous ranges. Instead of listing the hearing aid makes, they have given their own brand names. To me, this is totally murky. We don’t know what their products are, and cannot do any price comparison.

If the hearing aid industry wants to sell more products, these sort of practices are unwelcome.

Congratulations to those providers btw, who are totally transparent and make an effort to list their prices.

The hearing aid cartel has done its best to make it difficult to impossible for consumers to comparison shop for hearing aids. Until the FTC investigates the pricing practices of this international cartel, consumers will remain in the dark. The notion that hearing aid prices are dictated by supply and demand is patently absurd. There is simply no way that a huge multinational conglomerate like Siemens, with their billions of dollars in revenues, should be charging the same high prices for hearing aids as much smaller independent manufacturers. Audiologists claim that the wholesale prices they pay for hearing aids are high and that’s why the prices they pass on to their patients are also high. If this is true, then the audiologists are getting screwed over just like their patients. Something is obviously amiss here. Gerald

It is not only the hearing aid industry that hides prices, it is all of medicine. Do you ever see prices for procedures listed in a physicians office or hospital? If you ask they generally say it depends on your insurance and we won’t know until we file your insurance. If you ask for the cash price it is extremely inflated because it is used to negotiate reimbursement prices with insurance companies. Politicians want you to believe that medical prices respond to supply and demand but it doesn’t. Prices are controlled by insurance companies.

The use of the term cartel is so absurd in this case. By the logic you could argue that all cell phone companies are running cartels, or TV manufacturers, or pretty much anything you buy.

Hearing aids differ in price by brand and quality as much as a TV or computer.

Why?

If I open a hearing aid lab and staff it with 20 people, I have plenty of overhead, and have to make profits quickly to keep my cash flow manageable.

A corporation like Siemens has hundreds of people in their hearing aid division, so their risk and scale of costs increase exponentially. My 20 person hearing aid company example can probably have one accountant, one owner / manager, a supervisor. But with a thousand employees you need HR, accounting departments, the whole scale of the investment grows massively as a large infrastructure is needed to keep it all working.

So actually it is quite logical that Siemens would charge the same as a little regional hearing aid company. Siemens can leverage their size to save money, but have to run a large and complicated division of their company employing lots of expensive people. The small regional company is not going to be able to compete with production capability, so you get a smaller volume higher profit per unit necessity.

The fact that Siemens aids cost a similar price to a small regional hearing aid company is actually pretty logical from a business point of view if you think about it.

As to price comparisons, that has always been hard to do. But then it always has been in the medical field. Try calling four ERs and ask them to quote you for treatment in writing up front!

Hearing aids similarly have different functions and so it is impossible to know without an audiogram and case history in front of us to know what a patient is going to need. I’ve often heard patients call up and ask what ‘our’ hearing aids cost. But that’s like calling Best Buy and asking them how much a computer costs, with the important difference being that unlike in consumer electronics the loss, combined with patient requirements, dexterity issues, aesthetic desires, options, accessories, care plan, warranty, features, technology level, lifestyle, personal bias, and physical characteristics of the ear and patients body will all impact what is recommended or not.

Given the variables, sure, it is pretty hard to comparison shop. Now if patients called up and said, “I want a pair of Starkey CIC X110, multi memory, 3 year warranty, five years of service, 3 years of loss or damage insurance, hear clear, real ear ready, shipped overnight by FedEx in both directions, with aural impressions taken with Precision 3 material, I’ll limit myself to three office visits a year, I’ll clean and care for my aid correctly, I’ll need five boxes of HearClear tools, I’ll waive my trial period, and I know they will fit perfectly the first time without the need to ship them back to the factory for any reason, and I am emailing over a complete audiological test, and photos of my ear, including otoscopy images, and details of any physical conditions that could affect my use of the hearing aids, along with a medical case history and analysis of my lifestyle in detail…etc” Then we might be able to know the exact cost to the practice of the patient, apply the mark up necessary to keep the lights on and the balance sheet in the green, and provide an accurate quote.

But unfortunately there are so many unknown variables with any given patient, so certain assumptions have to be taken. Some practices may like to bundle a lot of services, some far fewer. Some may pay their receptionist more, or operate in a market where advertising is more expensive, or rent is. Some may be still paying back a franchise fee or initial business loan.

The scope of variables in this profession are considerable, and it is for this reason that you can’t just call for a quote like you were buying an iPhone 4S (which is price fixed by Apple in case you hadn’t noticed).

ZCT,

I appreciate the time and effort you put into these discussions. I find your insight very educational.

Insurance companies are the only reason there is some sanity in pricing. Without them who knows what we’d be paying. Where else do you sign on the dotted line prior to receiving services that you will pay whatever the provider decides to bill you, that is EXACTLY what happens when you show up in the hospital ER.

Well thanks :slight_smile:

Wow. :eek:

Let me show you the big picture.

The hospitals put an insane price for treatment out there. The reason being, if you don’t have insurance, they can have a collection agency come after you for the grossly inflated price, plus fees, interest and the rest. If they can collect just a small percentage of that, or sell the debt to a collection agency for pennies on the dollar, they have made their money, or if not they have a tax write off.

The insurance companies of course know this is all a scam, so they won’t pay the full amount, they’ll negotiate the bill down to what they will cover. Then they will go after the consumer for a deductible, co-pay, and various other BS fees. They also employ a ton of doctors and other medical experts to try an get out of paying if they can. That way they can keep all your premiums, and pay out as little as possible while you die.

In America the number one cause of personal bankruptcy is medical bills. We are the only major industrialized country to make such massive profits from sick people. The per capita spend on health care is 2-3 times most places in Europe, or Canada. Yet as I mentioned in another post, our statistical results for health care effectiveness is rarely in the top 20 for anything.

It’s not that we don’t have great health care in America, if you have the money or great insurance, it’s just that too many people are left out in the cold to suffer and die, and that kind of drags out stats down.

There are no heros in this debate, not the hospitals nor the insurance companies, nor the pharmaceutical companies. Sadly America has built a multi trillion dollar industry on the backs of sick and dying people, and that is a terrible shame.

In many countries health care is considered a human right, based upon need, not on bank balance. Although that’s not to say that rich people still can’t get better treatment if they want it, and there’s nothing wrong with that, just so long as the other 99% are not left out in the cold.

Looks like we agree that one of the major problems with the American health care system is end providers ripping off uninsured people. If you are living paycheck to paycheck or close to it, the way out is bankrupcy. Of those that declared bankrupcy due to medical expences, only 15% had bills exceeding $10,000. There is an interesting article here.

No doubt the collapse of the worldwide economy was fueled by wall street greed and the cleaver packaging of near worthless mortgage securities to unwitting investors. However, when you dig a little deeper, wall street could not have issued these securities if there were not people living beyond their means (i.e. buying more house then they could afford). I have a great laugh at a 60 minutes story of a silicon valley exec who was about to lose his house. He could not afford to send his kid to college, so he is going into the army. It would have been a real tear jercker if parts of it were not filmed in the kitchen of his $750K house.

I couldn’t disagree more with the article posted.

It’s typical right wing drivel that involves blaming those evil poor people for their irresponsible chasing of the American dream.

It must be nice for some rich college processor to sit in her ivory tower doubtless enjoying the many perks of her role including great health insurance, to pour scorn on ‘those’ people who get into financial trouble because they were too busy making ends meet instead of hoarding away half their pay check each month in case they get cancer.

America is the country that literally used to reach for the stars and got as far as the moon. Now when people suggest we could try and achieve something we are told to simply accept the status quo as perfection and move on.

I’ve already posted some of the shocking statistics about the American health care system including our 46th in the world ranking for infant mortality (according to the CIA - not some silly left wing study). And it is an undisputed fact that we pay more for health care than any other country on the planet, despite leaving tens of millions of Americans out in the cold with their coverage.

I wish we could go back to the JFK mentality where we try to have the best and most inclusive health care system in the world, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Not to give up at the first hurdle and be complacent while our fellow citizens suffer and die.

The above posts really revolve around the old question of what is the “best” function of government.

Are governments to provide income, health care, and education equally for ALL the people or just a select group of people.

Or should government let the economy decide who drives a Maserati, who gets top grade health care, who gets a superior education.

It’s governments that set the rules…

Karl Marx got that bit right but he overlooked basic human nature. That is we are all greedy monsters deep inside. (we pretend otherwise).

Ed (the icon buster)

ZCT,
The U.S. has been ranked in the lower portion for infant mortality since at least the late 1960’s when my mother began working for the County as an OBGYN nurse and at that time I believe we were last or close to it. At that time the government attributed the low ranking to the high number of indigent patients coming up from Mexico and Central America to work in the fields that came into the U.S. with little or no pre- natal care and then had their babies that were not well to begin with because of a lack of proper pre-natalcare. The only people I’ve talked to who are happy with their heath care is those with government jobs or retired government jobs who don’t have to pay for it and think the system is fine the way it is. I’m one of those poor people who has to shell out more than my house payment each month so my wife, kids and I have insurance if we get sick and the amount we pay it is only going to keep going up each year until we can’t afford it any more. The system is broke!

Yeah, but I call that an excuse. Blame the immigrants. Guess what, look at the health care and social services options in France; just amazing. Do you not think they have poor immigrants trying to get in (and succeeding) just to get benefits? There are plenty of poor in Pakistan or India who migrate into European countries. And there are poor from Russia, and Eastern Europe.

It’s totally bogus to claim that a few million Mexicans can drop our national infant mortality figures so sharply. Plus by definition if they are illegals, are we really expected to believe they are all tracked, monitored and recorded for inclusion in national statistics?

You’re right, the system is broken.

Ya know, there is a pretty large middle ground between a capitalist system that just lets poor people die in the streets, and Karl Marx.

If you visit England, or Canada, do you really believe that you are living in a Marxist regime? Even France, does that seem like the former USSR or China to you?

Just about every industrialized country uses their government to provide a basic level of health care, and beyond that the rich people still get to buy private insurance or self finance trips to private medical facilities whenever they like.

The funny thing is, these countries are noted for two significant things: By just about every single measure of a successful health care system, they are beating the US. And they are doing so by spending half or less than half per person what we do here.

So tell me, without being silly about Communism, Socialism, Marxism, Nazis, or what ever else Fox News tells people to think, how is our super ‘free market system’ working out? It’s more expensive, it’s less efficient (did you know Canada’s government system spends a third what we do on red tape per patient), less effective, and produces poorer results. Oh, and it does all this while simultaneously excluding at least a fifth of our population.

The pro-private sector capitalist argument is that private companies are more efficient, more cost effective, more adaptive, have less red tape, gives more choice, and delivers better results. But the thing is, it absolutely hasn’t done any of those things. So at what point do we call it out for not working?

You are always quick to point out how the hearing aid industry model is not working, but you essentially advocate for a free market, capitalist, deregulated system that hasn’t worked for health care, yet you expect it to work like a dream for hearing aids.

Well, it has for me! Yes, I know people who have this health coverage, and my care is better then theirs, without exception (and I have a pretty average job). Your fundamental problem is you either have not read, or if you have, you do not understand the U.S. Constitution. It’s about individual liberty and opportunity, not about dependence. There are reasons Obamacare are being challenged in the courts, and don’t be surprised if some of it is overturned when it gets to the Supreme Court.

Now I hope the admin locks the thread quicker this time!

Well that’s the problem isn’t it. It’s only too easy to turn a blind eye to the children, the poor, those in need, those who got unlucky. It’s an utterly selfish point of view that ironically backfires by hurting our entire nation, through the selfish unconcern of people like you.

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘this coverage.’

First off the Constitution cannot forever be a magical document that considers the reality of every decade. It was not written by gods who could see into the future. So hiding behind it as if it magically holds all the answers like some believe of the Bible or the Koran is just absurd.

When the people demand that the government collect money to fund health care, it does not take away your liberty. People living in say, England, can still purchase private health insurance (at a fraction of American rates), or fly anywhere in the world to get whatever treatment they wish to purchase. They have not given up freedom or liberty.

In fact it’s not hard to see America as having the opposite problem. If you don’t work hard, or follow the rules, you can easily find yourself excluded by the health care system. And unlike other countries, there is little to no safety net.

Why? Because you hate freedom of speech, or because your opinions are so self serving and irrational, you hate to have to defend them? :stuck_out_tongue:

The answer to “why?” is that this has turned into the thread that was already closed for being irrelevant/off topic. The admin clearly recognized it had turned into bickering where no useful information is exchanged, and of corse, then you launch into personal attacks as you did here.

You get on your soapbox and rail against the American medical system. Yet, I’m sure you see no irony when we get a n00b who posts about the costs of hearing aids, when you immediately switch hats defending these costs. You are rabid in your defense, the other fitters here bow out, because they can see the point of we end users.

You openly admit you work for an end provider. From your own keyboard you documented how end providers like you grossly over bill the uninsured, driving them into bankruptcy. Your conclusion at the end of this is the insurance companies are the bad guys. Hypocritical indeed.

However, what bothers me the most about your argument is you dismissal of the U.S. Constitution as our most fundamental laws. Every US citizen should read and understand it. The fact that there was no internet/cell phones at the time has no bearing on it. And in the event it does need to be revised, there are clear provisions to revise it.

So at the end of the discussion, I am an end user of the american medical system and while it has problems, I think it works pretty well. You on the other hand, seem to have no problems make your living from it and then argueing how bad it is. I have a friend who insists if you get up in the morning and hate yourself, you are a liberal. This would appear to fit you to a T.

I was talking about the health care industry in that context. I’m comfortable with the prices I charge, and they are not that dissimilar to the UK, who have a completely different (socialized) medical model.

Sorry you misunderstood my point.

Well that’s the problem. It doesn’t matter how many statistics, scientific studies, comparisons, and facts are put under your nose, you have not been screwed over by it in your opinion, so you can’t be bothered to consider if the current system could be improved upon, a classic right wing viewpoint.

But don’t you wonder even on some level how the most expensive system in the world cannot keep babies alive better than places like Cuba? Or is that good enough for you to be 46th in the world?

No I am completely happy when I wake up in the morning thanks. I make a living helping people to hear. It’s not how I would structure the health care industry or the hearing aid industry if I had the power to change it. But it doesn’t mean I am going to down tools, abandon my patients, and go live in a cave.

On the basis of your logic I either have to love the status quo or refuse to participate in society, which makes no sense.

At the end of the day I have pointed out some of the significant flaws in the American health care system and many people like you prefer to bury your head in the sand and wave the “We’re #1” foam finger in the air. I merely ask the question, couldn’t the richest country in the world that spends at least double on health care than any other nation on the planet do better? What’s wrong with wanting to improve, become more efficient, and help more people who are sick all while spending less money?

These threads often start with people complaining about the price of hearing aids, and I’m suggesting that if the health care industry as a whole were changed this could be achieved. But then the right wingers push back claiming that the current system is beyond reproach. So if that’s the case, stop whining about the prices. The free market has set the price at the level people are willing to pay.

In democratic countries it is so interesting to see people voting against their class or group interests. Instead they vote their emotions.

Many sucessfull politicians are masters of the art of getting people to vote against their self interests.

For example: It always surprises me to see low wage slaves and hard scrabble farmers vote for political parties that represent the interests of the wealthy.

What does this have to do with America’s health care system…;.plenty. Just MO Ed

There’s something we can agree on all day long Ed. In fact the whole voting against ones own self interests in America seems like a hugely popular thing to do.

I was working with an Obama hating life long Republican the other day. And after a few minutes he admitted he couldn’t think of a single policy he objected to under Obama. Nor could he think of a single positive of the Bush administration. And he further admitted that financially the quality of his life had never been better than during the Clinton era.

Yet, he’ll be voting Republican in the next election like he did his whole life. Told me he wanted to vote for Herman Cain even though he had no clue as to any of the policies of the guy, but described him as ‘making sense’ but couldn’t tell me why or how. :eek: