Bundled vs. Unbundled Audiologic Services
Have you ever wondered why hearing aids cost so much? The simple answer is, they don’t.
So now you may be wondering why do you always hear people complaining about the high cost of hearing aids? The answer to that question is a bit more complicated so let’s dive in! Most audiologist still subscribe to something called the bundled hearing healthcare delivery model. In this model, patients not only pay for their hearing aids, they also pre-pay for years of audiologic services all in one transaction. It is no wonder that many consumers assume this cost is the cost of the hearing aids alone. What if there was a more transparent and affordable model audiologists could use to deliver hearing devices and audiologic services? Oh wait! There is!
There are actually 3 different hearing healthcare delivery models so let’s break them down.
Bundled: All costs associated with obtaining a hearing aid including hearing testing, functional communication assessment, fit, orientation, training, aural rehabilitation, and follow up care are included in one single bundled charge collected at the time the device is delivered to the patient. Bundled models provide audiologic service for a set number of years, and sometimes even for the lifetime of the hearing aids, at no additional charge. The advantages of the bundled model are that it allows for a simplistic pricing structure and for some, peace of mind. The disadvantages to this model are that you are pre-paying for services that you may never use and paying one large sum of money at one time instead of spreading those costs out over a 4-6 year period. If you purchase your hearing aids from a practice that offers “free” hearing tests and consultations, you are actually paying in your bundled charge for the hearing evaluations and consultations for all the patients who did not purchase hearing aids from that practice too!
Unbundled (also known as itemized): In this model, audiologic services and hearing aid costs are separated and each patient pays for each item or service on the date of service. This is the same model used by most dentists, optometrists, and primary care physicians. The advantages of unbundling include greater transparency of the cost of hearing aids separate from your audiologic services as well as lowers the entry price to obtaining hearing aids because you are only paying for the services provided that day. This model is especially favorable for previous hearing aid users who likely need less initial training on new devices, snowbirds who only spend part of the year in Colorado, and anyone who does not have 7000 dollars just sitting around in drawer.
Partially unbundled: The last model is a combination of the two models described above where some services are bundled with the purchase of a hearing aid for a set number of visits, services, or length of time. Often partially unbundled delivery models leave pricing of bundled services itemized to help create transparency for the patient. The advantage of partially unbundling is that it ensures best practices are preserved in the fitting and orientation of hearing aids while attempting to not overcharging patients for services not used or undercharging patients for excessive use of services. The disadvantage of the partially unbundled model is that it does increase the upfront cost of obtaining hearing aids and may be overcharging previous hearing aid users for follow up visits they may not need.
Which model would you prefer your audiologist to use?
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the largest organization representing individuals with hearing loss, has been advocating for the unbundled hearing healthcare delivery model for years, yet most audiologists remain bundled. The Audiology METHOD is among the first practices in Colorado to subscribe to the unbundled or itemized model in line with Dr. Link’s mission of making hearing health accessible to everyone and the treatment process transparent. Learn more about how The Audiology METHOD is setting the standard for audiologic care for Coloradans by reading more about its founder, Dr. Julie Link Au.D.