Negotiations in Congress about the size and scope of a transformative reconciliation package are at a critical stage. Policymakers are weighing what proposals are in, what is out, and the breadth of potential coverage expansions. We urge Congress to boldly strengthen our nation’s health care safety net across the board, including adding a comprehensive dental, hearing and vision benefit to the Medicare program and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Rather than pitting different types of insurance or different groups against each other, or offering a limited or means-tested benefit in the Medicare program, Congress must make these benefits available to all by including them in Part B. If you have not done so already, Now is the time to make your voice heard.
According to a survey published today by West Health and NORC AmeriSpeak, more than 9 in 10 Americans believe dental coverage should be included in Medicare. Moreover, 73% of Americans believe that high prescription drug prices are impeding the Medicare program’s ability to provide dental coverage for seniors. These findings should help legislators understand the high value their constituents place on the ability to have dental coverage through Medicare, and the key role that broadly lowering drug costs could play in making access to dental care a reality for beneficiaries.
Advocates continue our push to achieve these goals. Last week, our partners at Families USA sent a letter joined by 180 organizations and advocates thanking House leadership and the Chairs of the House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce Committees for advancing legislation that would add a dental benefit in Medicare Part B. We now await action by the Senate, and an agreement between the two chambers of Congress. The California Dental Association (CDA), which represents 1 out of 7 dentists in the nation, recently published an article on their website giving their members “background and context for the current congressional activity on Medicare and clarify some common misunderstandings”. This article provides a helpful overview of the debate over adding a dental benefit to Medicare, and the respective positions of different stakeholder groups, including the limitations of a proposal by the American Dental Association, and the lack of requirements on benefits provided by Medicare Advantage plans.
Add dental, vision and hearing benefits to Part B now. As we have outlined elsewhere, the need is great, and such coverage should be available to all Medicare beneficiaries. Remember that B ≠ A (or MA): adding these benefits to Part B of Medicare does not impact the Part A Trust Fund, and could even lead to Part A savings. Let’s not squander a rare opportunity to help millions of people on Medicare.
September 30, 2021 – D. Lipschutz