|How can I get my Hearing Aids paid for?|
From the Hearing Loss Association.....
Unless you're a military veteran who qualifies for virtually free hearing aids from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you'll have to find a way to pay for them yourself.
Traditional Medicare excludes the price of hearing aids from coverage, but, like many private insurers, will pay for the doctor's exam required for obtaining hearing aids. Medicare also will pay for an audiologist's hearing tests, if prescribed by a physician. Private Medicare Advantage plans have varied coverage; check with your plan administrator.
Your private health insurance may pay nothing toward hearing aids or batteries, or it may reimburse some portion of the hearing aid costs. In Rhode Island, group health insurance plans are required to include coverage for hearing aids for adults and children. For adults (age 19 and older), the benefit is $700 per hearing aid, per ear, every three years. For children (anyone under the age of 19), the benefit totals $1,500. Ten other states-Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oklahoma-require health benefit plans in their state to pay hearing-aid costs for children. However, requirements and coverage vary. Other states have no mandate. Check with your insurance carrier to see what your coverage might be.
Some examples of hearing-aid benefits provided by private insurers:
- As of Jan.1, 2009, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Federal Employee Program, which covers more than half of all federal employees and retirees, began offering a hearing-aid benefit for adults ages 22 and over, up to $1,000 total per ear, including batteries, every three years. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which acts as a central exchange for BC/BS and some 270 other private health insurers covering federal employees, is encouraging participating insurers to add or enhance their hearing-aid coverage for adults this year. (Last year the FEHBP pushed for hearing benefits for children.) In spite of this initiative, the coverage is optional. So if you're a federal employee, check with your carrier to see what's covered.
- Your union may have negotiated hearing-aid benefits. For example, in New York City the United Federation of Teachers offers a supplemental plan for eligible members and dependents, for example, that pays up to $500 per aid, to be replaced no more frequently than every three years.
Other means of financing your aids
- Use a medical flexible spending account. Many employers let you contribute a portion of your pretax income to such plans. The proceeds can be used toward all manner of health-care costs, including hearing aids and batteries. A taxpayer in the 28-percent bracket who set aside $5,000 in such an account and used all of it for a $5,000 pair of hearing aids would reap an effective savings of $1,400.
- Deduct the cost. Health-care costs that exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income can be deducted from your federal income taxes if you itemize. Both hearing aids and their batteries can be deducted this way. The best way to reach this threshold is to bunch hearing-aid costs together in a single year. So if you know you need elective surgery and hearing aids, pay for them all in the same year. Check IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses, for details.
- Contact your state's rehabilitation services. These offices provide assistance for workers with disabilities. Depending on your state, you may be able to get help paying for hearing tests and hearing-aid purchases. Maryland, for instance, provides low-interest loans for hearing aids and assistive technology. The Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council provides links to state vocational-rehabilitation departments. (If the Web site from your state has a search engine, type in "hearing aid" to find relevant materials.)
Getting help if you have limited means
- Lions Affordable Hearing Aid Project, a project of the Lions Club International Foundation, assists hearing-aid users who can't afford aids. The program provides two specific behind-the-ear styles of aid from Rexton, Inc. (Keep in mind that the style offered may not be best for your hearing loss.) Contact your local Lions chapter for more information.
- Hear Now, sponsored by the Starkey Hearing Foundation, offers hearing aids to people of very limited means. Assistance comes through manufacturer gifts, hearing health-care providers, and donors of used aids from across the U.S. In 2009, for instance, an individual would need to have total income of $18,403 or less; a couple would need to have total income of $24,675.
- Sertoma (short for "service to mankind") provides mostly refurbished hearing aids to people who need assistance.
- State Medicaid programs may provide hearing aids to people of very limited means. Contact your county social services for an appointment to determine your eligibility for Medicaid. The Hearing Loss Association of America, a support and advocacy group, provides a list of Medicaid-provided hearing services for qualifying individuals in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.