Hearing aids are a significant investment in your health, and one that can be vitally important. But, actually paying for hearing aids can sometimes be more difficult. So let’s take a look at some ways you can pay for hearing aids now, AND save money.
- Pay cash if you can. If you can’t, most audiology practices accept a variety of credit cards.
- If you have a flexible spending account, or FSA, through your workplace, or a health savings account, hearing aids qualify as an expense. Using an FSA or HSA also can reduce your taxes, so it can be a great way to save throughout the year for a health expense you know you need to make, and also save tax dollars.
Here’s how an FSA works. All year long, via your employer’s plan, you have a designated amount of funds withdrawn from your paycheck and deposited in a special FSA account. You don’t pay taxes on these dollars. That means you reduce your taxable income by the amount you set aside in the FSA. There are some limits to how you can use these accounts though.
In 2020, FSAs are limited to $2,750 per year per employee. If you’re married, your spouse also can put up to $2,750 in an FSA with their employer.
In most cases, a pair of advanced hearing aids will cost more than $2,750. Because these plans are “use it or lose it,” it’s good to know that if you choose to pay for your hearing aids this way, you’ll use it, not lose it.
You use your FSA by submitting a claim to the FSA plan administrator (through your employer) with proof of the medical expense and a statement that it has not been covered by your insurance plan. You will then receive reimbursement for your costs. Your employer should be able to tell you how to use your specific FSA.
In most cases though, you must use the dollars you’ve saved in your FSA by the end of the calendar year. That’s why it’s important to plan carefully and not put more money in your FSA than you think you’ll use, and use what’s in there by the end of the year. In many cases, if you don’t use those dollars, you lose them.
- Use your insurance benefits. If you have insurance benefits that cover the cost of hearing aids, you’re fortunate. Insurance coverage for examinations and hearing aids varies from one insurance provider to the next, even from plan to plan under the same insurance company. Do be aware that if you have Medicare, it covers the cost of the hearing evaluation with physician orders for medical necessity, but not the cost of hearing aids. Some Medicare Advantage/replacement plans may offer limited options with paying for hearing aids.
If your insurance helps cover hearing aids, you will have to meet your deductible before coverage kicks in. Then, the coverage is often a percentage of the total expense. In other cases, these plans require the beneficiary to go through a specific third-party entity to purchase hearing aids or to receive a low-cost, low-end, entry-level hearing aid offered as part of the plan.
If you have an actual hearing aid benefit that assists in coverage of a hearing aid, then deductibles often apply. If your deductible is $1,000 a year, and you’ve met that amount, and then if your plan covers 80 percent of the cost of hearing aids, you would be responsible for the remaining 20%. In this example, if you were purchasing a pair of hearing aids for $4,000, your insurance plan would cover $3,200 of the cost, and you would be responsible for the remaining $800. If you have dollars still left in your FSA or HSA, you could even use them to cover your share of the cost, allowing you to use tax-advantaged dollars as well.
Some insurance companies also promote “discount options,” which may be purchased through a third party. Be sure you understand exactly what your plan offers. Often, these “benefits” or “discount options” limit you to the purchase of a specific device from a specific provider or manufacturer. They may offer a lower cost for the device only, which doesn’t include service; provides only low-end devices that may not work well for your specific hearing needs; or offer limited flexibility for the patient. In some cases, you can purchase devices of your choice with included service for the same or less than these “discounted options.” Just be sure to check the fine print! Your audiologist can usually explain the pros and cons of these options.
- Save on your 2020 taxes. Hearing aids are a qualified medical expense if you itemize your medical expenses on your income taxes. Be sure to talk with your tax advisor regarding claiming medical expenses though. There are specific thresholds you have to meet in terms of your total medical expenses in order to take these types of deductions. Additionally, if you purchase hearing aids through Associated Audiologists, they qualify as medical devices and are exempt from sales tax, which may not be the case if you purchase hearing aids through some retail outlets.
- Check financing options. By using special financing to purchase hearing aids, you can spread the cost of your purchase out so that it works better for your budget, yet you can still get the help you need. CareCredit is a convenient, monthly payment program we use at Associated Audiologists. The Wells Fargo Financial National Bank credit card program also provides budget flexibility through a comprehensive range of financing options. More information is available at any of the Associated Audiologists clinics. These plans usually have a set time for repayment, which can affect the interest rate.
The Associated Audiologists staff has the expertise to check and verify your insurance coverage, as well as provide detailed estimates of hearing aid recommendations and costs. We also can provide you with the receipts necessary for reimbursement from your FSA plan.
End-of-year appointments fill quickly. Request an appointment to consult with a doctoral-level audiologist today.