Understanding Your Benefits: First Consult Your Audiologist
There are big changes in how health insurances handle reimbursement for hearing aids. For many years it was rare to find a health insurance plan providing any monetary contribution toward hearing aids, let alone covering the cost of hearing aids outright. Today, many insurances plans boast hearing aid coverage, but not all ‘benefits’ are created equal. The quality of hearing devices can vary considerably, and it would be reassuring to know your insurance allows you to purchase hearing aids respected and recommended by the audiologists who program them. Unfortunately, there are many insurance plans limiting members to little or no choice.
There has been an influx of healthcare plans offering “discounts” on hearing aids. These plans direct you to a third-party hearing aid vendor, based most likely out of state. These companies are likely linked to hearing aids of a lesser technology at lower up-front costs. Patients who choose to go this route may still pay a large up-front fee for hearing aids. These patients will be led to acquire hearing aids regarded as inferior technology by professionals, while facing additional costs down the road for programming and standard follow-up care.
We understand hearing aids are costly. Because of this, it is important to know exactly what you are paying for. Ask your audiologist if the cost of hearing aids covers the devices, the initial fitting appointment, subsequent adjustments to the programming, etc. Patients now have a choice of paying for services as they go or paying for services in one bundled fashion. Most audiologists believe patient satisfaction is higher when all appointments are included, especially considering this is often the lesser expensive option when it’s all said and done.
My advice to you is to check with an audiologist about your specific hearing needs and first figure out what hearing aid is capable of meeting your demands. During a consultation, you will review your health insurance policy and what benefits, or limitations, may exist. These consultations should be free of charge and serve as a great opportunity for you and your family members to learn about all the necessary considerations during this process.
Step 1: Get your hearing evaluated by an audiologist. This is a full audiological evaluation, not a “free hearing screening”. Screenings can only confirm the presence of hearing loss, not the extent or cause of hearing loss.
Step 2: Discuss the results with your audiologist.
Step 3: Discuss recommendations based on your hearing needs and lifestyle.
Step 4: Discuss your health insurance benefits when applicable. The audiologist is expected to be prepared to explain all insurance benefits specific to your plan. While there are many benefits that offer a significant contribution to hearing aids, there are others that offer no contribution at all. Additionally, there are many insurances that now route you to third party companies offering discounted hearing aids. The pros and cons of all choices are discussed.
When these steps are performed out of order, your health insurance may enroll you into a program that basically chooses the hearing aids for you. When something as important as hearing is on the line, you need to be sure you are receiving the proper care.