Five steps for planning your 2015 hearing health budget
For many Americans, cost is a major obstacle to seeking quality healthcare – especially when it pertains to hearing health. A hearing evaluation can cost $250; a good pair of hearing aids can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000.
While the cost can seem prohibitive, ignoring your hearing health can be devastating to your physical health. Untreated hearing loss can be an indicator of circulatory problems, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In older adults, it can also contribute to depression, anxiety, social isolation and lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
You’ll be healthier overall if you take the time to incorporate hearing health costs into your 2015 budget with this five-step plan.
Estimate your costs
If you’re currently seeing a hearing healthcare professional for your hearing concerns, take a look at what you spent last year. Discuss this number with your hearing healthcare professional. Do they think you’ll need additional care this year? Are fees increasing? Work up a hearing health plan together so you’ll know how much to budget this year.
If you don’t currently have hearing health issues, start saving for the possibility. Hearing exams can cost anywhere from nothing to $250 – depending on what your health insurance covers and what hearing health practitioner you see. Hearing aids can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000 depending upon the type of hearing loss you have and the lifestyle you lead. Multiply this figure by the number of people with hearing loss in your family and you’ll have a good idea of how much you might be spending on hearing health this year.
Investigate available resources
Depending on where you live and whether you’re attending college or still working, you may qualify for state and local resources.
If you’re still working and need hearing aids to perform your job responsibilities, you may qualify for your state’s vocational rehabilitation program. Prospective and current college students may also qualify for these services. To find out what hearing health services are covered and if you qualify for coverage, visit your home state website or search the internet for “vocational rehabilitation” and your state.
Some local hearing centers provide low cost options for their patients to purchase hearing aids, no interest payment plans or work with community organizations which provide refurbished hearing aids to qualified residents.
Check your coverage
Whether you’re still working or enjoying retirement, you should be covered by some sort of health insurance plan. Does your plan cover your hearing health? Now would be a good time to check.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), coverage for hearing health is becoming more commonplace. 22 states now provide some coverage for hearing aids. While it may not be enough to fully cover the cost of a good pair of hearing aids, every little bit helps. Make sure you understand what hearing health, if any, is covered before you schedule an exam or purchase hearing instruments. Your hearing healthcare professional should be able to help you understand what you’re covered for and file the appropriate paperwork.
Each state sets its own guidelines regarding eligibility and services for Medicare and Medicaid. While Medicare typically does not cover the cost of hearing aids; Medicaid covers them for children and often for adults. Learn more about your state’s guidelines by contacting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Set up a savings account
Depending on what your insurance plan covers, you may want to set up a savings plan to cover the remaining cost of your estimated hearing health care. Check to see which one of these options is best for your financial situation.
Flexible spending accounts (FSA)
If you’re still working, ask your employer if your health insurance plan includes a flexible spending account option. FSAs are savings accounts where you bank tax free dollars to pay for co-payments, drugs, deductibles and other out-of-pocket health care costs.
You can put up to $2500 into a FSA account each year. Although most of the funds must be used during the calendar year, check with your employer to see if they allow any grace periods or allow you to carry over a specified amount to the next calendar year. Also, ask if your employer makes contributions to the FSA.
Most FSAs cover hearing exams and hearing aids – which includes the purchase price, maintenance cost and batteries – as well as television or telephone adapters and lip reading lessons. Since these allowances can change depending upon IRS regulations, be sure to check with your plan administrator before you bank dollars for hearing healthcare.
Health savings account (HSA)
A health savings account works in conjunction with a high deductible health insurance. HSA holders can bank $3,350 for an individual and $6,650 for a family in 2015. If you’re 55 or older, you can bank an additional $1,000. All contributions are 100 percent tax free. This money can be used to pay your deductible and qualified medical expenses, earns interest and is yours to keep if you don’t use it. Hearing aids are a qualified expense for most HSAs.
Contribute to a regular savings account
If your workplace doesn’t offer a FSA or you aren’t eligible to establish a HSA, consider putting aside money for hearing health into a regular savings account. Once you determine how much you may need for the year, just divide by 12 and save that amount monthly. If you’re still working, ask if you can have that much automatically deducted so you won’t be tempted to spend it on other things.
Purchase hearing health insurance
Since there’s a good chance your major medical plan doesn’t cover hearing health expenses, consider purchasing a separate plan to cover exams and hearing devices. The plans are similar to the extra coverage you may purchase for vision and dental care and help you pay for hearing evaluations, hearing aids – even batteries.
This year, hearing health costs don't need to catch you off guard. Estimate your costs, investigate local resources, check your insurance, consider purchasing additional coverage and start saving for the shortfall. This five-step plan can give you peace of mind as well as a healthier 2015.