We have been hearing from patients that they received mailings stating they have hearing aid coverage through their insurance company. With treatment cost being such a big concern in hearing health care, we understand this seems like great news. Treating hearing loss can mean an investment in the thousands of dollars. Insurance companies know this, too, and the result is that hearing aid coverage is rare for adults leaving the patient to pay completely out of pocket or go untreated.
In the past several years, third parties have offered insurance companies a way to provide hearing aids or hearing aid discounts to their insured. Often, these benefits look like they are being provided by the insurer, but in reality, the insurer contracts with a third party that the patient must go through in order to receive discounts or specific pricing. The patient will generally pay the third party directly for the hearing aids and the third-party then pays the audiologist a fixed fee to fit and service the hearing aids for a specific amount of time. The third party contracts directly with hearing aid manufacturers which allows them obtain discounts for purchasing hearing aids in bulk. Sometimes the third party and the hearing aid company are owned by the SAME parent company (for example, Sivantos owns TruHearing and Signia). These entities limit the professional care provided to patients because they only allow patients to see a provider that has enrolled in their program. They may also limit the number of visits that are provided and require patients to select from a limited list of equipment that may fail to fit their specific needs and lifestyle. Furthermore, if an audiologist is being paid a low, fixed reimbursement rate, they may have to sacrifice quality of care in order to make the fitting financially feasible.
Unfortunately, the fixed fee offered to audiologists for their role with a third party doesn’t allow for a sustainable business (most of the money remains with the third party and the manufacturer). Your local audiology practice also isn’t likely to be able to secure the same bulk discounts from the manufacturer as the third party. Successful hearing aid outcomes require professional expertise, aural rehabilitation and adherence to best practice guidelines, including verification of the fitting measured in the patient’s ear canal with calibrated verification equipment.
We also encourage patients to do their research about the provider they are being referred to through a third party. Many times third party providers are not licensed audiologists, but are hearing aid dealers/dispensers. A doctor of audiology has spent years learning the intricacies of the human ear and the most effective ways to apply a vast array of technological solutions. The differences between audiologists and hearing aid dispensers is a big topic that warranted its own article (available on request).
At Florence Hearing Health Care our mission is to empower our patients to achieve better living through better hearing. We are a small, family run business with a strong commitment to making sure that every patient that walks through receives the amount of care necessary in order to achieve success. In order for us to be able to maintain our standards for care, we do not participate in any third party entities. Our pricing is transparent and we work with patients to come up with solutions that fit both their lifestyle and budget. In many cases, our prices are similar to a third-party discount program if the cost of the hearing aid is separated from the professional service provided by the audiologist. We bundle our service plan because we know it greatly impacts the success rate of treating hearing loss (we don’t want your expensive new hearing aids to end up in the nightstand!). We understand that cost is a factor in deciding upon a hearing loss treatment program and encourage patients to explore all of their options in a supportive, sales-free environment.