UnitedHealth selling discounted hearing aids to members, non-members

UnitedHealth Group will sell low-cost hearing aids, becoming the first insurer to offer the products as part of its health plan coverage. The insurer stands to gain a lot of money from the move since roughly 36 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, but only 75 percent of them use hearing aids.

Instead of the average price tag of $2,000 to $4,000, UnitedHealth will make hearing aids available through its Medicare managed care and prescription drug plans for no out-of-pocket cost or a co-pay of up to $649, depending on the plan, reports Bloomberg.

"UnitedHealth sees this as a way of meeting a need and cutting healthcare costs," said Lisa Tseng, chief executive officer of UnitedHealth's Hi HealthInnovations, a newly formed unit handling the devices' sales and marketing. "Even before health reform, we heard across the board from customers that this was a benefit they wanted."

Additionally, UnitedHealth plans to offer discounted hearing devices for retail sale, so they will be available to consumers without UnitedHealth insurance. Those consumers will take a hearing test either online or via a mobile device and, based on their specific test results, will receive hearing aids by mail, according to the Pioneer Press.

The insurer will use the media and direct mail to advertise the hearing aids, which will be priced from $749 to $949. It's also considering marketing and distribution deals through large retail chains that sell drugs like Wal-Mart or Walgreens. However, UnitedHealth is still in the discussion phase, Tseng told Bloomberg.

To learn more:
- check out the Bloomberg article
- see the Pioneer Press article

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