You’re likely familiar with Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 years and above (as well as younger people with disabilities). The program assists roughly 45 million people in America, and many people depend on Medicare for hospital insurance and supplementary medical insurance which covers things such as medical equipment, lab tests, and more. But one thing that you might be wondering is: does Medicare cover hearing aids? Read this blog to find out more.
Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
Unfortunately, hearing aids are not covered by Medicare (nor are hearing aid fittings). Most diagnostic hearing tests are not covered by Medicare, either. Medicare Part B (Supplementary Medical Insurance) will cover certain diagnostic hearing exams if your general practitioner orders them. If you have Medicare Part B, you will pay 20% of the cost of the hearing exam or exams. In some instances, Medicare may cover hearing implants following severe hearing loss, but for the most part, hearing devices are not covered and many people will have to pay out of pocket or use a secondary insurance.
Hearing aids can get expensive (although there are plenty of low-cost, high-quality hearing aids available on the market today), so you may be wondering how to buffer the costs of hearing aids and all that go with them. While the federal government does not cover hearing aids, several states do provide some sort of coverage regarding hearing aids. According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, a number of states provide coverage to adults, children, or both: Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island all require coverage for children and adults. Check out the ASHA page for more information about your state.
Why Aren’t Hearing Aids Covered By Medicare?
Hearing aids are not covered by Medicare because they are considered an elective item—while hearing aids certainly improve quality of life, Medicare does not consider a necessary item to survive. Other reasons why Medicare does not cover hearing aids are mostly speculative, but likely fiscal. Many people 65 and older have some degree of hearing loss and could benefit from hearing aids, but providing coverage to all these millions of people would not be financially beneficial for insurance companies. In addition, the work involved with Medicare is an incredibly complex and slow process, so some hearing aid providers do not want to accept Medicare in the first place.
How Can I Pay for Hearing Aids?
The first step toward making a plan towards paying for hearing aids is contacting your health insurance provider if you have private insurance. Your insurance might pay several hundred to several thousand dollars, which goes a long way in paying for hearing aids. Every health insurance plan is different—some plans may pay a one-time only amount, while others many allocate amounts per ear. When talking to your insurance provider, get the answers to these questions:
- What is the health plan benefit for hearing aids, if any?
- Are there certain criteria for hearing aid coverage?
- Can I have a list of specific providers in my area?
- If the health plan has an allowance, do I have to pay the provider in full and then fill out paperwork to get a reimbursement, or can you bill the provider directly?
- Are the benefits limited to certain types of hearing aid models/hearing devices?
To many people, hearing aids ARE an essential device to living and thriving every day. While Medicare does not cover hearing aids, some insurance plans will, and your state may have coverage for you! Do your research before you buy any hearing aids to avoid paying fully out-of-pocket. Hearing aids are incredibly important to millions of people, and you can find ways of paying for hearing aids without breaking the bank!
By: Elena McPhillips