This is one of the two most common questions I have encountered in twenty-seven years of private practice. The other question is, “How long do the batteries last?”
To answer the main question, I call upon my experience with a friend of mine who has been an attorney for many years. That answer is, “Agreed in part, Denied in part.”
For the most part, general commercial insurance carriers do not cover hearing aids, repairs, earmolds, or batteries. Almost everyone holds the notion or has been misinformed by an ‘expert’ friend that Medicare covers hearing aids. It is a fact that Medicare does NOT cover hearing aids or anything associated with hearing aids, PERIOD! If Medicare did cover any portion of the cost, it would be a wonderful and welcome benefit for every policyholder.
For the everyday common insurance carriers with their standard over-the-counter fare of individual, family, and group policy offerings, hearing aids are not covered.
However, there are a few health insurance policies that do cover hearing aids or at least a partial reimbursement. For an individual with Medicare benefits and has assigned those benefits through Keystone 65, an individual policyholder reimbursement is available for $500 every thirty-six calendar months. Another major carrier used to provide an $800 policyholder reimbursement but ceased the benefit in late 2009. That carrier now refers policyholders to a network for discount hearing aids. The discounted price is more than the regular selling price in my practice and with greatly reduced personalized service.
Some union plans cover part of the cost of amplification or either one or two devices in full. Kelsey-Hayes (former known as Heintz Manufacturing), Steamfitters Local, Operating Engineers, Budd Company, Carpenters Union, Screen Actors Guild, United Federation of Teachers, and many more. There were a multitude of union plans available for the worker, retiree, dependent or surviving spouse, and dependent child. With the economic changes evolving in health, labor, industry with respect to costs, these hearing aid plans and other specialty riders to the policies have diminished.
Other employers such as institutions of higher learning and corporations without union coverage provide for hearing aids. These entities fund specific enhanced health benefits for the employees to take advantage. The corporations would rather pay a portion of their profits for these ‘nuggets’ rather than hold the money and pay a higher tax rate. By paying for the special coverage, the employer legally avoids paying more in taxes and the employee realizes the value of their service and loyalty.
The first step for you is to contact your health and benefits representative for information regarding hearing aid coverage. Next, a call to the member services number listed on your insurance card will verify current coverage for dollar amount, percentage of covered cost, how often your benefit is available for use, deductible or co-pay required, and proper coding for disbursement. Once you have acquired that information, with a printed copy in hand, see an audiologist and get your hearing checked today. There is no time like the present to hear better. What are you waiting for?