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September 1, 1999

Settlement requires Lakeside Audiology to pay state $100,000

TUMWATER - Lakeside Audiology has agreed to pay $100,000 and reimburse injured workers as part of a settlement that will resolve complaints about the sale of hearing aids.

Lakeside Audiology will pay the settlement amount to the state Department of Labor & Industries to resolve overpayments the agency made to the firm for hearing aids and batteries. The company sold the devices to injured workers who qualified for such benefits through the state's workers' compensation program.

Lakeside Audiology must also reimburse those claimants affected by improper billings for hearing aids and batteries. To date, the firm has paid almost $6,000 to several injured workers and is working to identify more who deserve reimbursements.

"Labor & Industries will tolerate no improprieties by providers of any services to injured workers," said Doug Connell, assistant director for the department's Insurance Services Division. "We expect all providers to guarantee quality services."

The settlement involved 34 complaints from injured workers. Lakeside Audiology had 459 claimants who received benefits from Nov. 1, 1997 to Nov. 30, 1998, when Labor & Industries conducted a review.

The department pays for hearing aids if medical evidence shows that a person's hearing loss was work-related.

The agreement required Lakeside Audiology to make an initial payment of $35,000 on Aug. 30. Regular payments will be made until Jan. 15, 2000, to complete the arrangement.

Labor & Industries' agreement with Lakeside Audiology avoids a formal order for repayment that could have taken years to resolve.

The owners of Lake Audiology are Jeff Scott Johnson and Donald Lee Tucker, both of Moses Lake.

The firm also must provide all prospective Labor & Industries' claimants during the next two years with a signed document that details their rights about receiving a hearing aid. During that same time, Lakeside Audiology must allow Labor & Industries to review and approve all of the firm's advertising that is directed toward injured workers who might qualify for workers' compensation benefits.

Hearing aids for qualified injured workers with an approved claim are provided free of charge. Approval payment of a claim for a hearing aid through Labor & Industries usually takes six to 12 months.

Any worker who seeks a claim for hearing-aid benefits through Labor & Industries should also know that:

  • They do not have to make an immediate decision about a hearing aid.
  • Medical evidence that shows the hearing loss was work-related is necessary for claim approval.
  • Labor & Industries will not pay for a hearing aid that a qualified doctor determines is not medically necessary.
  • Labor & Industries will pay for a variety of hearing aids, including those that fit behind the ear, in the ear or in the ear canal. The department may also pay for hearing aids that may or may not be programmable.
  • An approved hearing aid will include free batteries and will be repaired at no cost to the injured worker.

The settlement with Lakeside Audiology is the result of an investigation by the department's provider investigations team.

Labor & Industries manages the workers' compensation system in Washington. It provides benefits to workers injured or who become ill or as a result of their work. The system covers about 163,000 employers and 1.6 million workers.

Questions about hearing aids that Labor & Industries pays for should be directed to 1-800-547-8367.


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