Congress Begins Debate About Adding Dental, Hearing and Vision Benefits to Medicare – Now is the Time to Act
Congress is poised to strengthen our country’s safety net, including adding critical benefits to the Medicare program. Today, the House Ways & Means Committee began to mark-up legislation that would add dental, hearing and vision benefits to the Medicare program.
As we noted in a CMA Alert last week, the need is great: among other things, the lack of dental care can exacerbate chronic medical conditions, and hearing loss and vision loss are associated with higher risk of falls, depression and cognitive impairment.
The Center has written extensively on the need for a dental benefit in Medicare, including fact sheets that address the relationship between oral health and particular chronic conditions. We also drafted a fact sheet and FAQ with Families USA and Justice in Aging highlighting why a dental benefit must be in Part B. In addition, we have highlighted the need for hearing and vision care, including a recent article in STAT news about the need for hearing aid and hearing services.
Now is the time to make your voices heard – as the Center and colleague organizations work to highlight other priorities for improving Medicare, and push for the proposals currently under consideration to be more robust. This moment presents a truly rare opportunity to legislate a meaningful expansion of Medicare benefits. It is a crucial time for people to contact and urge their federal lawmakers to make important improvements to the program for all current and future generations of Medicare beneficiaries. If Congress misses this chance, it could be a very long time before we will see another opportunity.
The following link allows you to send an automatic email to your members of Congress asking them to improve the traditional Medicare program by: Controlling private Medicare Advantage and prescription drug costs; adding an out-of-pocket cap; adding dental, hearing and vision services; improve affordability, including strengthening low-income protections, and expanding rights to purchase Medigap policies: https://secure.everyaction.com/0Yho6AcLSkSqYlPesPMO4g2.
Here is a separate link asking members of Congress to support adding a comprehensive dental benefit to Medicare: https://secure.everyaction.com/pa3W02ObtUqwRFH6-stqoQ2.
If you prefer to call or write a letter to your elected representatives, you can obtain the contact information for your U.S. Senators on the “Find Your Senators” pull-down menu on the following site: https://www.senate.gov/. You can obtain the contact information for your U.S. Representative by typing in your zip code at the following webpage: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.
Now is the time to act!
Medicare’s Open Enrollment period – also known as the Annual Election Period or Annual Coordinated Election Period – runs from October 15 through December 7. During this time all Medicare beneficiaries can reevaluate their coverage, and make changes, whether they are in Original/Traditional Medicare with separate Part D drug coverage, or in a private Medicare Advantage plan. Beneficiaries should review their coverage every year to determine if their current options meet their specific health care needs.
During the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, Medicare beneficiaries can:
- Change from a private Medicare Advantage plan and move to traditional Medicare, or vice-versa;
- Change from one private Medicare Advantage plan to another;
- Join a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan;
- Change from one Part D plan to another; or
- Drop Medicare Part D coverage entirely (provided they have other creditable coverage).
It is important to note when determining your best coverage options that open enrollment does not generally apply to Medigap plans, which are only guaranteed issue in most states during a beneficiary’s initial enrollment period, and during limited special enrollment periods.
Determining the coverage that is best for your specific health care needs can be complex, but here are several simple tips to help beneficiaries with their coverage decisions.
- Be ready with a list of all your health care conditions, prescription needs, and desired/necessary providers when you review your options.
- Make a note of any changes to income that might help you qualify for extra help with drug costs or Medicare co-pays.
- Watch your email for important notices from Medicare and Social Security. Read them carefully to be sure they are legitimate notices, and not private plan marketing junk mail.
- Review the 2022 Medicare & You handbook. The Handbook was posted online today (9/9/2021) in English, Spanish and a new Chinese version, with translations in Vietnamese and Korean coming in early October.
- If you are considering private plans for your coverage, rather than the universally accepted traditional Medicare program, be sure to review plan options on the Medicare Plan Finder.
- Finally, there is help available to navigate these decisions from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Find contact information for your SHIP program at https://www.shiphelp.org/ (In CT, known as CHOICES, at (800) 994-9422.)
Above all, be sure to make the decisions that will best meet your health care coverage needs for the coming year. Remember that your status in October may not be where you find yourself next July.
This webinar will discuss the 2022 Annual Coordinated Election Period (ACEP), including outreach and education materials issued by the Medicare program, Medicare Plan Finder updates, common enrollment pitfalls, options when you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, and other considerations for Medicare beneficiaries and those who assist them. Policy changes, potential helpful legislation, and other updates for 2022 will also be discussed, including Medicare Advantage network adequacy and other changes made by final regulations.
- Register now at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5896392103778054926