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The Finances

April 20, 1998|KATHLEEN DOHENY

Who pays for hearing aids?

Insurance coverage varies widely. Hearing experts say they notice a slight increase in coverage as awareness of the problem grows. Here is a sampling of insurers:

* Some Kaiser Permanente plans offer a hearing aid benefit, which must be bought as a special supplement, says spokeswoman Kathleen Barco. About 8% of members have the coverage, which is purchased for employees at 177 companies.

* Blue Cross of California does not cover hearing aids. But seniors 65 and older who are Blue Cross members can get a 20% discount on Beltone hearing aids.

* Traditional (fee-for-service) Medicare plans do not cover hearing aids, but some Medicare managed-care plans offer some coverage for hearing aids.

* As employees and retirees request coverage for hearing aids, some professions are becoming trendsetters. For example, the Directors Guild of America-Producer Health Plan covers hearing aid expenses up to $1,500 per family per year. As of Wednesday, all four health plans for Los Angeles Unified School District employees covered hearing aids partially or totally, says Karen Hemingway, director of the LAUSD contract and insurance services branch. Previously, only one plan covered them.

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