United Healthcare delivers 80% of its owner UnitedHealth Groups’ $242.2 billion annual revenue, according to Wikipedia. This netted them over $14 billion in 2019 which suggests it is making a tidy profit from its United Healthcare subsidiary.
The company is currently offering hearing aids over the internet at 80% discount in headline terms on its website. However, it seems this will not apply to at least some United Healthcare hearing aids because the fine print says:
- ‘Up to 80%’ on ‘industry prices’
- ‘Compared to the industry average’
- Average in Consumer Reports 2017
What Does ‘80% Off Hearing Aids’ Mean in Practice?
Ask Wonder says the average price of hearing aids in the United States leveled out in recent years. This is probably a result of consumer resistance to price gouging, a practice where prices are higher than what is reasonable or fair.
The most recent available data suggests hearing aids are selling for an average of $4,600 to $4,800 a pair in U.S. That average is heavily loaded with high-end prices from Oticon, Phonak, Widex, ReSound, and Starkey.
It’s therefore fair to expect the insurance-covered hearing aids 80% discounted by United Healthcare would chime at around $470 each. We rushed to the company website to confirm these United Healthcare hearing aid prices.
Unfortunately, we were somewhat disappointed. Many of the links on the public side of the website were dysfunctional. As a result we were unable to compare actual prices with the current state of the hearing aid marketplace.
The Current State of American Insurance-Covered Hearing Aids
Health insurance clients appear to continue to pay far more for their hearing aids in North America than most other countries around the globe. These devices mainly come from centralized manufacturing plants primarily in Asia. This in turn suggests U.S. input costs are similar to countries where consumer prices are remarkably lower.
United Healthcare (previously Ingenix) had a series of brushes with the law beginning February 2008. That was when New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo alleged irregularities in its - and certain of its competitor’s - databases of healthcare charges.
A number of other complaints are currently pending against United Healthcare and United Behavioral Health, according to Wikipedia, and relating to claim denials and other issues. Therefore, like many other large U.S. corporates, it may be a good idea to take its discount claims with a pinch of medicinal salt.
We Take the Pinch of Salt and Dive Into United Healthcare Hearing Aids
People Keep says the average 2020 U.S. health care group cost per employee is $15,375 per year. Rates at United Healthcare vary on the basis of the type of coverage. The company has apparently teamed with EPIC Hearing Health Care and Hi Health Innovations, and these should add to their total operating costs.
Then there is also the ‘small matter’ of a mandatory hearing test, and presumably delivery charges, as we did not see that word ‘free shipping’ anywhere. When we take all these costs into account, we conclude the 80% off hearing aids claim simply does not add up.
For if it did add up, then Oticon, Phonak, Widex, ReSound, and Starkey must be supplying United Healthcare hearing aids at close to their cost. And why should they want to do that when they are making good money from the current franchise system?
However, if we got our numbers wrong, and you really can get a pair of hearing aids from United Healthcare for $940, you would still be paying more than you have to even after overlooking your $15,375 per year average subscription.
Is this scheme legit? Unfortunately it is, because there is little to no regulation of the U.S. hearing aid market place in terms of prices. The U.S. is a free economy where the law of supply and demand reign supreme, and cartels flourish.
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