MDHearing to Offer Hearing Aids through OTC Insurance Benefit Plans

Collaboration with Medline will tap health insurance coverage for over-the-counter products
Rechargeable MDHearing Aids

Rechargeable Volt Max hearing aids from MDHearing (source: MDHearing)

MDHearing, a manufacturer of affordable over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, has teamed with Medline to take advantage of something new: supplemental health insurance coverage for purchase of OTC hearing aids. Medline, which supports healthcare systems with clinical, administrative, and product support across the U.S., will distribute MDHearing’s hearing aids purchased by patients with policies that offer reimbursements for OTC products.

Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids, and traditional health insurance plans have traditionally offered sparse coverage. But the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) October 2022 ruling that hearing aids can be sold directly to consumers without prescriptions now qualifies them for coverage by many insurance plans that offer supplemental OTC benefits.

“Prior to the final ruling from the FDA, health plan members have been on the hook for paying out of pocket for prescribed hearing aids,” said MDHearing CEO Doug Breaker. “In partnering with Medline, we’re making it convenient and easy for health plan members to use their benefits dollars to purchase high quality hearing aids, saving them thousands of dollars, while still getting support from licensed hearing professionals.” 

Billions of dollars of insurance coverage available for OTC hearing aids

According to a 2021 study by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), nearly 18 million consumers have access to health-plan funded and administered OTC benefits, with an average of $400 in OTC allowances per enrollee—equating to $7.1 billion in total allowances for covered OTC healthcare products. Many of these are popular Medicare Advantage plans offering supplemental insurance coverage beyond basic Medicare.

OTC Insurance Infographic

Eight out of ten Medicare Advantage plans offer OTC benefits, but much of the available funding is unused (source: CHPA)

However, the survey also notes that 70% of the annual OTC allowances are unused. Programs offering substantial new cost benefits to consumers like the OTC hearing-aid coverage from Medline and MDHearing are designed to increase the usage of those benefits.

OTC hearing aids for $300 to $700 per pair

The companies said Medline will distribute MDHearing’s OTC hearing aids at prices ranging from $300 to $700 per pair. MDHearing has been selling FDA-approved hearing aids directly to consumers since 2008. Its latest Volt Max hearing aid ranked Number 6 on HearingTracker’s list of Best OTC Hearing Aids for 2023. Medline said in a news release that it will offer three hearing aids from MDHearing’s current lineup of OTC hearing aids:

  • Neo is an entry-level in the canal rechargeable aid that is “one size fits most” and is pre-programmed to fit average age-related hearing losses. Its price is listed on the MDHearing website at $499.99 per hearing aid but is currently offered at a “buy-one-get-one-free” sale price of $299.98 for a pair.
  • Volt is a behind the ear rechargeable aid that features dual microphones and 4 pre-set programs. Its price is listed on the MDHearing website at $599.99 per hearing aid but is currently offered at a “buy-one-get-one-free” sale price of $299.98 for a pair.
  • Volt Max is a digital, behind the ear with adaptive directional microphones. Users can program noise reduction, microphone direction and other settings from a mobile application, with remote adjustment available from licensed hearing professionals. Its price is listed on the MDHearing website at $799.99 per hearing aid but is currently offered at a “75% off” sale price of $299.98 for a pair.

MDHearing offers at-home hearing screening tests by phone along with a simple online hearing test. It staffs a US-based support team of licensed hearing professionals that help customers over the phone, email, SMS and fully HIPAA compliant video and performs thousands of remote hearing aid adjustments, video consultations, and hearing tests per year.

Insurance coverage for hearing aids: a new norm?

The announcement by Medline and MDHearing is part of a broader trend. While more insurance coverage for hearing aids is not yet the “new normal,” recent announcements by major insurers and hearing aid brands that lower the costs for hearing aids may be an indicator of more coverage to come.

  • In November 2022, one of the nation’s largest health insurance providers, UnitedHealthcare, began administering AARP Hearing Solutions, offering significant discounts on top hearing aid brands. Several of UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Advantage plans already offer a degree of coverage for hearing tests and hearing aids, and its UnitedHealthcare Hearing subsidiary has long offered hearing aids to plan members at signicant discounts.
  • And in December 2022, invisible hearing aid maker Eargo announced a deal enabling health plan members served by NationsBenefits to use their plan dollars towards purchasing Eargo hearing aids while getting telecare support from Eargo.

The arrival of lower-cost OTC hearing aids may be ushering in a new era of more insurance coverage for hearing aids. It’s also significant that in most cases, insurers and manufacturers alike focus not only on providing more affordable hearing aids but on enabling support with hearing screenings, fittings, and ongoing care.

“Medline and MDHearing share a vision of going beyond transactional relationships and providing high quality customer service that makes it easier for patients to take care of themselves,” said Katie Lavelle, director of business development for Medline’s Post-Acute Care Division. “Our goal is to help insurance providers continue to improve the member experience and reduce overall cost of care.”