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Corporate or Employee Assistance

The majority of people with hearing loss in America are under retirement age so it is important to seek out available help through your corporation whether it is private, government or not-for-profit.

Insurance or Discounts

Many corporations, including your hearing health provider or union, may offer financial assistance for hearing aids or audiological services either through reimbursement or as part of a hearing healthcare agreement entitling you to a discount on hearing aids from local hearing healthcare professionals.

Private insurance coverage for hearing aid treatment is very limited for adults nationwide, although insurance mandates for children have been enacted in 16 states as of this guide’s publication date (CT, CO, DE, KY, LA, ME, MD, MN, MO, NJ, NM, OK). Only two states mandate some form of coverage for adults. Rhode Island mandates that insurance policies cover hearing aids for adults as well as children, although the minimum benefit for children is significantly higher than the minimum benefit for adults. Arkansas does not mandate coverage of the cost of hearing aids, but rather requires insurance companies offer coverage to employers in the state. However, if the employer chooses to add this option, the health plan must provide hearing aid coverage of no less than $1,400 per ear every three years for individuals of all ages.

At the federal level, at least eleven insurance plans offered to federal employees through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) include coverage for hearing aids as of January 1, 2009. Children were covered through FEHBP plans as of January 1, 2008. All of the FEHBP plans, and all of the state mandates, provide minimum benefit amounts that must be covered towards hearing aid treatment, and allow the person to select any hearing aid that best suits their needs and pay the difference out of pocket. These plans all include restrictions on how many years must pass

between coverage claims. Courtesy of: Andy Bopp, Hearing Industries Association

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) you may be eligible for hearing aids or other assistive technology if it is needed to perform your job. For more information on your legal rights on the job see: www.betterhearing.org/hearing_solutions/legal_rights.cfm

Medical Flexible Spending Accounts

To address the increasing health care costs, the federal government enacted Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Codes. Through IRS Code Section 125 employers are able to provide their staff with the opportunity to establish Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA’s) that reduce their taxable income and apply the money saved to help off-set these medical expenditures.

In other words, the medical portion of an FSA permits staff members through payroll deduction to set aside up to $5,000 pay per year, on a pre-taxed basis to pay for out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses for themselves and or family members. The deduction maximum limits are set by the employer and cannot exceed $5,000 and each participant determines the amount of money they will contribute up to the pre-determined maximum. Basically, all expenses not covered under a group insurance plan are considered covered expenses and can be utilized with this program. These include, but are not limited to medical deductibles, out-of-network claims, expenses for special treatments, hearing aid devices, prescriptions and over the counter medication, dental and vision care expenses, and many other commonly used medical products.

In order to receive the reimbursement participants can choose one of two options: submitting a claim form after services are rendered and receiving a reimbursement for all eligible expenses by mail, or the use of a debit card which can be utilized to pay for covered expenses at the time of purchase or when services are rendered. Either way, medical reimbursements may be obtained regardless of the accumulated amount in the participants account. For example, a person with a hearing loss who is considering the purchase of a hearing aid can make the purchase in January, and pay it off biweekly through pre-taxed payroll deductions.

As a participant, it is important to calculate your elected funds each year carefully as the Internal Revenue Service requires that any unused money left in the account at the end of the plan year must be forfeited; basically there is a “useit-or-lose-it” rule. Although participants have three (3) months after the plan year to submit expenses incurred during the plan year, it is important to spend very carefully in order to avoid an end of the year purchasing spree. In addition, you are not able to make changes in your account during the year unless there is a change in your family status or spouse’s employment. If such an event should occur, you must notify the plan sponsor or Human Resources Department within 30 days of the qualifying event in order to make the change in your deduction.

In summary, Flexible Spending Accounts are an excellent way to save on the numerous medical care expenses that face many working individuals today. With this said these tax-advantaged financial accounts can be utilized to aid in the expense of hearing aids or assisted listening devices by utilizing tax-deferred dollars.

Courtesy of: Jeannine DelPozzo & Greg Santi, SPHR, Director of Human Resources Widex Hearing Aids.