Health+Benefits the Jan/Feb 2024 issue

The Untapped Value of the Hearing Benefit

Q&A with Rob Gibbs, SVP of Sales and Account Management, TruHearing
Sponsored by TruHearing Posted on January 24, 2024

Rob Gibbs discusses how the hearing benefit stands out in comparison to typical benefits and why it is a key opportunity for commercial brokers.

How common are hearing benefits in the commercial space? Is there a demand for them?
Hearing benefits aren’t common and often get overlooked in the commercial space. CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] data shows nearly all Medicare Advantage members have hearing benefits but only a fraction of the commercial space has coverage. This is a disconnect because they are a low-cost, high-value benefit that’s in demand. A recent TruHearing survey found that 64% of working adults say offering hearing benefits is important or very important. What’s more, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), hearing loss is more common than diabetes or cancer.
What value can agents/brokers add with a hearing benefit for their clients or for their clients’ employees?
By offering hearing benefits, agents/brokers add value for clients and their clients’ employees in many ways: employer cost savings, employee out-of-pocket savings, whole-person health and wellness, quality-of-life improvements, and productivity enhancement. When it comes to the popular topic of whole-person health and wellness, treating hearing loss is a major modifiable risk for preventing dementia.
Employers have started to shed benefits as costs continue to rise. What makes this benefit stand out in that environment? How is this going to make the cut as a recruiting tool, as more and more employers are looking to their benefits for that purpose?

As employers evaluate their most valuable benefits for the sake of attracting and retaining talent, hearing healthcare benefits are extremely inexpensive, particularly when compared to other core health benefits like medical, vision and dental. Hearing benefits start as low as five cents PMPM and can be configured in multiple ways to best meet the needs of each client.

The cost of entry is low enough for agents and brokers to offer employers not only a new, valuable, whole-person health benefit but also for the organization to demonstrate its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Hearing benefits make it possible for more employees to be engaged and productive—according to TruHearing research, 49% of employees with treated hearing loss reported feeling more included at work after wearing hearing aids—while making the company more appealing for retention and recruiting.

64% of working adults say offering hearing benefits is important or very important. What’s more, hearing loss is twice as common as diabetes or cancer.
Rob Gibbs, SVP of Sales and Account Management, TruHearing
You describe achieving cost savings on your website. How are you achieving that despite benefit cost increases?

TruHearing achieves cost savings on hearing aids by buying at scale from all major manufacturers to offer a large selection of the highest-quality hearing aids with the latest features; plus, TruHearing offers a private label for even further savings. We also negotiate pricing with a qualified provider network of hearing care professionals to offer low- or no-cost exams and appointments.

Without a benefits partner, an employee’s out-of-pocket cost can be unpredictable, drastically inconsistent, and unattainably high. In the case of one of our union plans, before TruHearing the cost for hearing aids averaged $6,000 a pair. Five members were billed $10,000+ for a pair, and one member $16,000+. With a partner, costs are predictable, consistent, and range from as low as zero to $1,000 to $2,000 for a pair of hearing aids depending on the amount the employer wants to fund to drive down employee costs.

Describe your approach to customer service. Your website mentions you are rated #1. How does service add so much value for brokers, plans, and their members?

The ratio of people with hearing loss is high compared to those who start the path to seeking treatment. To improve that ratio, we put tremendous resources and effort into making the process simple to understand and easy for everyone involved.

For members, one of the barriers to treatment is that their first hearing exam can seem daunting. Why? It’s less familiar than a typical healthcare visit like a yearly physical or a dental cleaning. Since we know members don’t know what to expect at a hearing exam, we give them a direct line to a personal Hearing Consultant for support through their entire journey: TruHearing schedules the provider appointments, sends exam reminders, and works with the member’s hearing benefit provider to answer questions about the member’s benefit with the goal of providing an unmatched white-glove experience. We routinely (blind) survey members and providers about the quality of their journey, constantly improving our process to achieve world-class ratings.

TruHearing puts that same unmatched effort and service into our relationships with brokers and plans, resulting in surveyed partners giving TruHearing a satisfaction rating of 4.9/5. We make every step of the hearing benefit solution process simple to understand and easy to implement in the often-unfamiliar landscape of hearing healthcare.

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