Hearing aids help those who have experienced certain degrees of hearing loss to correct it.
Without hearing aids, many older people have difficulties listening to conversations and hearing sounds clearly.
Because a sizeable number of people above 70 experience one kind of irreversible hearing problem or another, it is necessary to know whether or not hearing aids are covered by Medicare.
Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aid?
The simple answer to that would be No, it doesn’t, but it’s not that straightforward.
When Medicare was instituted many decades ago, hearing aids weren’t covered for two simple reasons. One, they were quite affordable, and most people never lived long enough to need them.
However, things have changed dramatically over the years. Not only has the price of hearing aids skyrocketed, but there is also a growing need for them.
Original Medicare, which is what Parts A and B of Medicare is called, does not cover hearing aids, neither does it cover most healthcare issues related to hearing.
However, in some instances, Original Medicare covers hearing examinations which can assist the doctor to detect the extent of the hearing deficiency.
Original Medicare (Plan B) may also cover for surgically implanted hearing devices that help correct hearing although not in the way traditional hearing aids work.
Surgical hearing-improving procedures such as the implantation of bone-anchoring hearing aids or cochlear implants are covered because such devices are not medically classified as hearing aids under Medicare.
It must however be noted that this procedure only works for people with specialized ear problems and does not work for all kinds of hearing deficiencies.
So let’s look at the parts of Medicare that cover hearing aids.
Medicare Parts That Cover Hearing Aids
First, let’s look at all the parts of Medicare in detail.
Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospitalization and nursing facilities.
Medicare Part B covers outpatient appointments with doctors. During such appointments, a hearing exam may be necessary for a doctor’s diagnosis.
Medicare Part C often covers hearing aids and more. Medicare Part C is known as Medicare Advantage and is provided by private insurance companies.
Medicare Part D is focused on prescription drugs.
As noted earlier, Medicare Parts A and B do not cover hearing aids or hearing exams, so the patient is responsible for the payment.
However, as also noted, Part B Medicare only covers exams for diagnosis. The patient still has to bear 20% of the cost, though. However, exams related to the fittings of the hearing aids aren’t covered.
That leaves us with Medicare Part C, which is the only Medicare plan that covers hearing aids.
The advantage of the Medicare Advantage plan
Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C) is managed by private health insurance companies. It naturally offers more options and coverage than Plan A and B, and its price varies from provider to provider.
Medicare Advantage Plans are seen as a better route to getting health insurance in Plan A and B. It is a combination of the two plans with an advantage. They also cover prescription drugs most of the time.
Choosing the Right Medicare Plan for Hearing Aids
If you need hearing aids, the Medicare plan with coverage for you is the Medicare Advantage plan.
For people who already have Medicare parts A and B, and you live in the service area of the provider of the Medicare Advantage plan, then you are qualified for Medicare Part C.
Medicare Advantage plan rolls all the advantages of Plans A and B into one. The greatest benefit is that eyes, teeth and ear problems are also covered, unlike in the Original Medicare plan. It also covers prescription drugs as well.
Now that you know that hearing aids are covered in Plan C, how do you get it?
First, you should know that Medicare plan C is an optional plan provided by private insurers for eligible persons.
To be eligible, the patient must have enrolled already for the Original Medicare plan and must reside in the service area of the provider who offers the services needed. The enrollee is also expected to be at least 65 years old.
Medicare Advantage plan offers more options and better healthcare although at a greater cost than Original Medicare.
Types of Medicare plan C include Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO), Preferred Provider Organisation (PPO), Special Needs Plan (SNPs) and Medical Savings Account (MSA).
While Medicare plan C may seem to be more costly, it in fact offers more cost-effective options for personalizes ailments. It is for this reason that issues like hearing aids are well covered.
How Much Will It Cost?
At least 88% of Medicare Part C providers cover hearing aids. So, how much will it cost?
You already know Medicare Part C isn’t run by the government. It is managed by private insurance companies, so you’ll have to pay. But the price varies.
However, the cost is mostly dependent on the type of your plan.
The average cost for a Medicare Advantage plan is put at about $34/month.
Meanwhile, it is important to note that the actual cost of hearing aids may also vary depending on the severity of the hearing deformity. The cheapest hearing aids go for about $2,000 while more expensive ones may sell for as high as $6,000 each.
There are additional maintenance costs to be factored in as well, which will drive up the costs. It is a very expensive procedure that is best handled through medical insurance. For hearing aids, go for a Medicare Advantage plan that covers your need, and contact an insurer for more guidance.
What about Medicaid?
Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids. That much we know. What about Medicaid?
Medicaid is a health insurance program administered by both the federal and state governments that provides health coverage for people with low income. This includes children, parents, and people with disabilities.
Does Medicaid cover hearing aids?
Administration of Medicaid varies from one state to another.
Medicaid is mandated to provide hearing aids for children that suffer from hearing impairments. For adults, Medicaid also provides aid most of the time as long as the patient qualifies for it, that is, it is determined that the patient is a low-income earner, or from a low-income family.
Many poor people with hearing problems have received hearing aids through Medicaid.
The Medically Needy Program also helps higher-income people to receive assistance for hearing aids, albeit, temporarily, via Medicaid.
It should, however, be noted that all of this varies from state to state. While many states offer coverage for hearing treatment to varying degrees, some states like Alabama, Kentucky, Maine and Maryland have no hearing aids coverage at all under Medicaid.
Hearing aids are expensive. So legislations are being planned to ensure that less-expensive types are available soon over the counter. To be regulated by the FDA, they are to be designed for those with minimal hearing problems. However, if you have serious hearing problems, you may need a health insurance package as discussed above.
How to know if you need a hearing aid
Although most hearing problems affect older people, there have been several cases of deficiencies with young adults, and in some cases, children.
The major problem when you need a hearing aid is that you may not immediately know you need one! It is a problem that graduates naturally. But there are signs that you need to observe to know if you should see an audiologist about your ears.
Signs such as hearing a ringing sound in the ears, and trouble hearing people speak over the phone are obvious red flags. If you need to pay closer attention before hearing what someone is saying or you need to increase the volume of a speaker before hearing audibly, then you may have started developing ear problems.
Note that hearing loss can be treated, but the hearing may not be restored. That’s where hearing aids and other types of procedures come in.
Despite not being originally covered by Medicare, hearing aids are now under Medicare Advantage coverage. If you have hearing difficulties, you can take advantage of several such plans.
As noted, you must already be enrolled for Medicare plan A and B before you can qualify for the Medicare Advantage, which is an improvement on plans A and B.
Medicaid also provides opportunities to receive hearing aids, although this depends on the income level of the patient, and other conditions which vary from state to state.
John E Chambers is an experienced financial advice expert. Born in Chicago, he has a master's in Industrial Finance, but he has spent decades offering investment advice to businesses and individuals alike. He is the founder of RetireeWorkforce.com and wants the website to be valuable for retirement advice. In addition, he writes articles that help users jump-start their retirement plans and choose the best investment options. If not pondering over stock market statistics or reading some magazines, you can find John spending time with his family. As an early retiree, John also offers unique insights into what post-retirement life is like.