Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) hearing aid insurance coverage plans went into effect on January 1, 2009 for potentially 8 million federal employees, retirees and their families. FEHBP plans added a hearing aid benefit for dependent children of federal employees for the first time in 2008, and the new 2009 offerings cover adults which greatly increases the number of individuals covered. The hearing aid expansion is included in various fee-for-service plans, with significant variety in the benefit amount and the number of years allowed between claims. A Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan covers up to $1,000 per hearing aid including fitting, evaluation and post-fitting treatment, once every three years, while the Mail Handlers plan covers $500 per ear once every five years. Click here for a summary of the plans offered.
The FEHBP offerings are consistent with HIA's "Issues in Third Party Reimbursement" White Paper which defines the key elements of any coverage plan as provider choice, patient participation, quality, and medically effective treatment. HIA met several times with Office of Personnel Management (OPM) officials who determine what benefits the agency seeks from its insurance carriers as they structure benefit offerings. FEHBP insurance plans are often cited as model programs for private insurance plans, and they are generally regarded highly by federal employees.
While the benefits cover only a portion of the cost of hearing aid treatment, they provide significant assistance for people with hearing loss. The expansion of FEHBP coverage to include hearing aids is likely to encourage insurance companies to consider offering similar benefits as part of company-sponsored and private insurance plans. Contact Andy Bopp with any questions.