With hearing loss considered to be a social determinant of health, Medicare Advantage payers have taken a more comprehensive approach to hearing healthcare over the last five years. And in turn device makers have responded.
With hearing loss considered to be a social determinant of health, Medicare Advantage payers have taken a more comprehensive approach to hearing health over the last five years. Medicare Advantage (MA) enrollees electing plans this season—open enrollment has been in full swing since October 15—have significantly more options and richer benefits for hearing aid coverage, with copays in some cases as little as $100 for a hearing aid.
Given the MA payers’ quiet revolution in addressing hearing healthcare, how have the world’s five global hearing aid manufacturers responded to this market opportunity? In two ways, with hearing aid product innovation and vertical integration into hearing health managed care.
Medicare Advantage Plans with Hearing Aid Benefits
“The healthcare industry is seeing a rising trend in the number of Medicare Advantage enrollees electing a plan that offers a hearing aid benefit,” said Patty Greene, audiologist and director of provider engagement at TruHearing. “In 2018, 73 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees nationwide chose a Medicare Advantage plan that offered a hearing aid benefit,” a marked increase from the 47 percent of MA enrollees in 2015, Greene reports.
MA payers recognize that hearing loss is a widespread social determinant of health. The prevalence of mild or moderate plus bilateral hearing loss for people in their 60s is over 25 percent. For members in the decade of their 70s, the prevalence jumps to more than half. Seniors with untreated hearing loss are more likely to experience social isolation, depression, anxiety, and even paranoia, according to a new NCOA study. Yet less than 40 percent of people over 65 use hearing aids.
UnitedHealthcare (UHC), the MA leader with 26 percent of enrollees, announced in June the formation of UnitedHealth Hearing. The announcement publicized “no out-of-pocket cost for some people and a per-device copay for most starting at $200,” for name-brand devices. For the company’s hi HealthInnovations brand, copays start at $100 per device. In contrast, the average hearing aid purchased without coverage cost consumers $2,372 on average, according to a Hearing Tracker survey. UHC views hearing benefits as one component of its “customized wellness experience” for MA members.
Source: MedCity News