United Health Care hearing aids

#1

I just returned from a United Health Care meeting where it was shown, depending on the program, that hearing aids will be covered with 0 deductible or $360 deductible per aid. Aids will be shipped to insured’s home from a hearing aid company United Health Care apparently now owns. Has anyone else encountered this or have more knowledge of it?

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#2

I actually got an alert on this, because there is already a legal fight brewing over a company selling hearing aids without a license.

Basically a health insurance company figured that rather than cover the hearing health care needs of their policy holders, they would just offer some cheap hearing aids over the counter so to speak.

It’s a direct affront to the law in most states. Although notice how they refer to their products as ‘hearing devices’ not ‘hearing aids.’ An effort I’m sure to keep the lawyers happy. By making this one distinction they can avoid the ‘middleman’ as they call it, or in other words avoid having a comprehensive hearing examination conducted by an expert hearing professional.

Their products appear to be non-custom amplifiers. They don’t have any significant technical specs posted, so I’m guessing the technology is nothing to brag about.

It will be interesting to see how it all pans out, especially with some of the statements made on their site, such as “both ears are recommended for optimal performance.” Really? A bold statement without examining the patient! What if they have a unilateral loss? Or an acoustic neuroma. Oops.

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#3

Yeah I’m aware of it as well.

Someone called about the program (an audiologist who also happens to have UHC) and asked some questions - not as an audiologist but a beneficiary - the most important being what happened if there was a problem or the devices needed work or repair or what happened if they didn’t work at all for them…the rep had no answer. Literally just sat on the phone in silence…

This is the result of someone sitting in a big office somewhere trying to figure out ways to swindle money out of their beneficiaries under the guise of “easy solutions” to a very complex problem. After these people purchase these sub-standard products and realize they don’t work for them they way they’d expect they will not be able to get any money back and will still have to go and get actual hearing aids…or better yet, figure that is what all hearing aids are like and never get anything again because the experience is so poor. I’m sure that some people will do okay, but for the majority of people doing this I’d bet money that they are terribly disappointed.

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#4

Appatently, thay are using an online “hearing test” here. They supposedly create an audiogram from that.

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#5

And all these years I’ve been spending thousands of dollars on audiometers or MedRx systems for testing hearing, thousands more on sound booths, annual calibration and continuing education and license renewals. Yet all I needed to do was install a Flash sound player on my web site and let people test themselves! :rolleyes:

To me it looks like a straight up con, the more I think about it. What looks at first glance like a cheap hearing aid concept is actually a device not even certified as a hearing aid, not even called a hearing aid, no published fitting range, no meaningful service arrangement, nothing to protect the consumer at all really, except they can send the device back.

The scary thing is, we’re talking $1500 in round figures for a set. For just a few hundred more you could get a vastly superior system with a proper hearing test, life time service, and a real audiological fitting with follow up adjustments and annual hearing tests.

The web site is encouraging people to send in their audiogram, meaning that in all likelihood these people will have gone to one of those clinics, wasted the time of a hearing professional who offers free hearing tests, and then walks out of the office with a copy of their hearing test having just cost that hearing professional an hour or two of his professional time (I wonder why hearing aids get so expensive?). Then they send in their audiogram and order up a cheap amplifier and shove it in their ears and wonder why it doesn’t work.

Or worse, they order up a hearing aid set after self testing on the web site, and wear these fake hearing aids for a year or two when all along the problem was actually a build up of wax and what they really needed was a cleaning at the doctors office not hearing devices at all. They could have solved the problem for $50 at the doctors office, but instead convinced themselves they had a hearing loss with this self service web site, and now they are out $1,500.

Scam scam scam.

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#6

I really don’t know what to think yet about UHC’c insurance program. A zero deductible was exciting to many in the meeting I attended and in the insurance booklet it’s referred to as “hearing aids”. In looking at the online hearing test I don’t see how you can be accurate with the results. I wonder if this won’t morph into an agreement with certain providers to do the testing and then the fitting once they are in the hands of the insured. UHC’c PPO’s and HMO’s are quite effective in S. Florida, the main drawback I see on the HMO’s is that when go out of your county, you’re out of the network, not so with PPO’s. However the PPO’s have a $360 deductible per ear. All in all it has the makings of a potentially good program but it can’t be free (can it?).

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#7

Based on what I read on the site, and your audiogram, I’d bet you $1,000 that their aids would be next to useless for your loss. I’d bet another grand that for just $500 more I could fit you with something vastly superior.

When a company is scared to use the term ‘hearing aid’ that’s a red flag. Then when a company is still peddling non-RIC technology, that’s a concern too. And the final nail in the coffin is the lack of technical information (they have something to hide) and the assertion that you can just test yourself in your living room.

It’s insulting. It took me three years to become a senior licensed Hearing Aid Audiologist, working my ass off. And years of experience to reach my skill level now. To imply that a laptop and a set of iPod headphones can do my job is pretty stupid and dangerous. Not to mention insulting.

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#8

ZCT, I can appreciate what you’re saying and by no means am I defending their program. It looks to me like it attempts to minimize the skills necessary to be able to accurately assess a person’s hearing loss. From that perspective it looks like it would be an insult to all the people in the hearing aid industry. Unfortunately I have experienced first hand the difference in the abilities of hearing aid specialists to understand what I am hearing and adjust the aids to compensate. I have no doubt this cannot be done long distance. My intent on starting this thread is to let other people know what’s coming.

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#9

No it’s a good thread. Just saying what I thought of the web site, that’s all.

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#10

Hi, we noticed your conversation about our recent launch, and wanted to point you to our FAQ on the Hi HealthInnovation’s website. This should answer your questions about our products, technologies and offerings. Unfortunatley we are unable to post a live link in this reply, but you can access the FAQ from the lower left-hand corner of Hi HealthInnovation’s homepage. If you need additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-855-523-9355.

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#11

Your FAQ page doesn’t tell me who to contact should I find out my hearing loss was due to a brain tumor, fluid in my ear, ossification of the bones of the middle ear…or ear wax. What shall I do in those situations???

dr.amy

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#12

I have a question: how do you prescribe hearing instruments on the back of an uncalibrated and unregulated test?

Or are you just flouting a legal loophole in the state where you are shipping them from?

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#13

I wonder if they know what a Cholesteatoma is?

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#14

Thanks for pointing out the FAQ’s on the Hi Health Innovations site, part of United Health Care Group. I read through them all.
How could a medical insurance company feel it is a good idea to eliminate contact between their insured members and the healthcare professionals most appropriate to help them? One would think that would be the LAST thing they would want to do and one would think that would be the FIRST thing their insured members will be upset about when their hearing test is wrong and their mail order hearing aids do not function as expected. Is United Health willing to cover the patients Audiology appointments when the member demands follow-up with a local audiologist to help resolve the mess they are in? According to the FAQ’s, if there is a problem with the aid settings, the person must first try the three pre-set programs and select which one works the most. For those that won’t live with it, they can call a toll free number. Anyone can see that this while process is a huge set-back to all those with hearing loss and for those that work with individuals with hearing loss. WHY oh WHY do we have university audiology programs, state audiology licenses, and professional audiology certificates, if the simple answer to all hearing loss is an online hearing test and mail order pre-set aids? IT ISN’T THE ANSWER. It isn’t effective and won’t work. This just reverses all the hard work and progress made through the years. UGH ;-{

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#15

I checked with United concerning the HA feature of their AARP Medicare Complete Insurance. It is available under their bonus rider which costs $37/mo and includes dental benefits as well. The HA benefit is $800 every 2 years. The kicker is that their HA program for the above insurance is administered by Epic Hearing and from what I have determined you have to buy their aids. They did give me a local providers name but I haven’t pursued as I am reluctant to buy an aid I have never heard of.

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#16

I’m retired from GE, and buy my health insurance thru GE from United Healthcare. Epic Hearing Services handles my HA issues for United Healthcare. Referring me to a local Audiologist as needed.
Coverage is 100%, both ears, every three years. No limit.
I do have to pay for my own remote controls & accessories.
Point: All this relies upon the policy you are enrolled under.

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#17

I’m going to go out on a limb and say…NO. Or rather, YES, and just don’t care.

dr.amy

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#18

I noticed that since the professionals started asking questions, they ran away, rather than address the valid questions.

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#19

Yes…interesting isn’t it??? Doesn’t bode well for their services methinks. I think they will soon find out that dispensing a hearing aid isn’t as easy as they are making it out to be…

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#20

Well, I hate to sound contrary, but I took the test and while it might be unsuitable for diagnosing degree or cause of hearing loss, it is not purported to be a test to fit your own hearing aids… It just said something like this: (I paraphrase). You seem to have much better hearing from one of your ears. This could be caused by: yadda, yadda, yadda, etc. We recommend you see a trained professional to evaluate your need for hearing aids.
Anyway, I don’t quote exactly but it’s something along those lines. The thing might be a scam and the products may be worthless. But the test itself is not particularly misleading or wrong. It’s just an online tool to determine if there might be a hearing problem.

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