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Hearing Aid Offer expanded by UnitedHealthcare

September 1, 2012 - UnitedHealth Group.'s hi HealthInnovations subsidiary extended its hearing-aid offering to more than 26 million people who have commercial health coverage through the company. Previously this hearing benefit was available only to people on UnitedHealthcare Medicare-replacement or Medicare-supplement insurance plans.

The hearing aids devices are provided by IntriCon Corp. (IIN). UnitedHealthcare, the largest insurance company by membership, is consolidating the hearing-aid supply chain and using its purchasing clout to deliver lower-cost devices. (We expect to see much more of this strategy by UnitedHealthcare and other insurers overt he coming years).

DowJones news wire reports "The effort ran into a challenge earlier this year when the Food and Drug Administration said an online hearing test--initially highlighted as a key part of the hearing-aid offering--was being marketed without necessary regulatory approval". The online hearing test is now being reworked. The online hearing test is now performed by an "offline" provider to allow the program to meet FDA regulations.

Hearing professionals may oppose the expansion because it reduces revenue for their profession and because the online tests might not be as effective as tests performed in a provider's office.

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