Medicare hearing aid coverage
Most hearing loss is irreversible, but thanks to hearing aids, it can be treated. Wearing hearing aids is one of the best things you can do to ward off dementia later in life.
Hearing aids allow you to follow conversations, socialize in crowded places, and enjoy movies.
Here’s what you need to know about the current state of Medicare coverage and how to pay for hearing aids in 2020.
Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids
When Congress established Medicare in 1965, it excluded hearing aids from coverage, noting that they were “routinely needed and low in cost.”
Recent research links hearing loss to a host of ailments, including dementia, poor balance, depression, and cardiovascular disease. Medicare doesn’t cover routine hearing exams, hearing aids, or fitting exams.
Medicare will, however, pay for a diagnostic hearing exam to determine what’s causing another condition. For example, your doctor might test to see if hearing problems are causing you to have vertigo.
The results of a diagnostic exam may signal that you have hearing issues. But that won’t help you pay for hearing aids.
Medicare Hearing Aids 2020
The high cost of hearing aids has attracted the attention of Congress, and there are changes in the works that could make hearing aids more affordable for everyone.
Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids
In 2017, Congress passed legislation instructing the Food and Drug Administration to ease barriers to buying hearing aids. Since then, the FDA has been working to approve the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids.
The new hearing aids, available in 2020, will be self-fitted, rather than professionally fitted by an audiologist. They’re for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act
Over the past few years, legislation has been introduced in Congress that would expand Medicare coverage to hearing aids.
In late 2019, a pair of legislators introduced the Medicare Hearing Act of 2019 in the House of Representatives. The bill would allow Medicare to cover hearing aids for people with severe to profound hearing loss.
Medicare would only pay for one pair of hearing aids every five years, and it would not pay for over the counter hearing aids.
The legislation has passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But it will need approval from the full House and the Senate before it can become law.
Medicare Hearing Aid Prices
Hearing aids are expensive, and an audiologist must fit them to the user. The average cost is $2400 for one hearing aid or $4800 for a pair. There’s no discount for being on Medicare.
Some retailers, such as Costco, offer hearing services. Their advertised prices are less than you might pay at an audiologist’s office. But even at Costco, a pair of hearing aids can cost between $1500 and $2500.
Partly because of the cost, only about one in four adults who could benefit from hearing aids has used them. Many people wait years before finally getting hearing aids.
Medicare Coverage for Cochlear Implants
When medically necessary, cochlear implants have coverage through Part B. Also, Part C may cover as well.
Those with a supplement will likely pay the least amount out of pocket for necessary cochlear implants.
Talk to your doctor about the cost of implants with your policy. Further, discuss the specific rules or criteria that may apply.
FAQ’s About Medicare and Hearing Coverage
Does Medicare Part B Cover Hearing Aids?
Part B covers doctor visits and durable medical equipment like wheelchairs and oxygen. However, it does not cover hearing aids.
Does Medicare Advantage Cover Hearing Aids?
Also, Advantage plans can offer some other benefits, including coverage for hearing. Individual insurance companies decide whether to cover hearing aids and how much insurance will pay.
Most Medicare Advantage plans do not include hearing aid coverage, but a few do. You may or may not be able to find a Medicare Advantage plan in your area that covers hearing aids.
Plans may include deductibles, copays, and limits on how frequently you can get new hearing aids.
Does Medicare Pay for a Hearing Test?
Part B will only pay for a hearing test that your doctor orders to see if you need medical treatment. It does not pay for tests to measure hearing loss and see if you need hearing aids.
Does TRICARE for Life Cover Hearing Aids?
TRICARE for life does not cover hearing aids for retired service members or their families. However, as a former service member, you may be eligible for other government programs to help pay for hearing aids.
If you have enrolled at a VA Medical Center, you can obtain Audiology services and hearing aids at the center for no cost.
You may also be eligible for the Retiree-At-Cost Hearing Aid Program. Some military hospitals offer hearing aids and fitting services at a discount.
Do Medicare Supplement Plans Cover Hearing Aids?
Medicare Supplement plans work together with Medicare. They cover the same healthcare services that Medicare does. Since Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, Medicare Supplement plans don’t cover them either.
You can, however, buy a separate insurance policy that includes hearing services and hearing aids. This insurance may be sold together with vision and dental coverage.
The specifics of these policies will vary depending on the insurance company.
Get Help Paying for Your Audiologist Visit
Depending on your situation and where you live, there may be federal, state, or local programs to help you pay for an audiologist visit and hearing aids.
Medicaid pays for hearing aids in some states. If your income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, you may still be able to get assistance through your county social services department.
You may also find a clinic that offers hearing aid services on a sliding scale depending on income. But the best way to get help with the high cost of hearing aids and audiology services is to buy insurance.
At MedicareFAQ, we can help with all your Medicare insurance needs, including searching for policies that will cover hearing exams and hearing aids. Give us a call or fill out our form to get started.