Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Glasses, Hearing Aids, and Dentures Not Covered by Medicare

Photo by Kent Landerholm
While Medicare does provide many benefits to older adults, there are several tests, items and services that are not covered by Medicare. This link leads to a webpage that provides a searchable list so that you can determine what Medicare does and does not cover.

Notably, Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids, dentures, or eye glasses (with the exception of one pair of glasses fitted after cataract surgery). This is unfortunate because of the following facts:

  •  CDC reports that About 25 percent of adults 60 years old and older no longer have any natural teeth.
  • People 65 plus have visual impairments at 3x the rate of people under 65: 18% vs 6%.
  • About 1/3 of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing problems. About 1/2 the people who are 85 and older have hearing loss. 
These items are vital for communication, but as the facts above show, they are commonly required.  Also,  they need to be replaced frequently, either because of changing need or because they are lost. They are easily misplaced in the home, but they can also turn up missing during hospital stays. Perhaps these factors played into the decision that individuals must pay for these items as one way to control Medicare costs.

This may be an inelegant analogy, but car insurance does not cover the costs of replacing air filters and fan belts perhaps for parallel reasons.

Beneficiaries and their family members should remain aware of these exceptions and others in order to reserve funds for these much needed items. Go online or contact your local Area Agency on Aging to receive additional information about what Medicare does and does not cover.  

Added 8/8/2012. Since writing this, I have learned about AUDIENT, a program to help cover the cost of hearing aids.

AUDIENT helps low income people nationwide access quality hearing aids and related care at a significantly lower cost.
AUDIENT income qualifies families to be eligible for a discount on brand name hearing aids available through the AUDIENT Alliance's national network of dedicated hearing care providers. 

Brand selection includes Oticon, Phonak, Siemens, Widex, & Unitron hearing aids. Any age – Income Test is 250% of FPL – size of household counts.


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