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Symposium eyes oral health, Medicare for older Americans

August 17, 2017

By Jennifer Garvin

Alexandria, Va. — Dental benefits and Medicare were two topics featured during Oral Health America’s Medicare Symposium: Access for Older Adults – Advocating for Oral Health in Medicare.

The July 19-20 conference, the third in a series of symposia initiated by OHA and the DentaQuest Foundation, was designed to bring together professionals from aging, public policy, dental and allied health care organizations to evaluate options for introducing a cost-effective, patient-centric dental benefit in Medicare. The ADA was also a co-sponsor of the invitation-only event.

“We were pleased to be part of this important event,” said ADA President Gary L. Roberts. “Addressing the oral health needs of older Americans is a key priority for the Association. The ADA remains engaged and at the table to provide its perspective on what the benefit might look like so that it is one that would work for both patients and dentists.”

During the two-day event, attendees looked at the many perspectives of a potential oral health benefit in Medicare, including discussions regarding payment models and financing strategies for senior oral health, the political impact and consumer attitudes. They also participated in roundtable discussions on ways to engage in grassroots efforts to gain support for an oral health benefit in Medicare with a focus on the midterm congressional elections.

Drs. Steven Snyder and Christopher Bulnes of the ADA Council on Dental Benefits Programs and Drs. Mark Desrosiers and Daniel Cheek of the ADA Council on Government Affairs represented the ADA at the conference.

“As this conversation proceeds, ADA must be at the table to represent the voices of our members. We know that there are many perspectives amongst our members regarding the issue of a dental benefit in Medicare,” Dr. Snyder said. “Our participation in this conference allowed the ADA to voice its perspective. The ADA’s Council on Dental Benefit Programs is actively studying this issue to help in making an informed recommendation for the profession. ”

Added Dr. Cheek, “This was a well-organized conference. The only group talking from a provider perspective was the ADA and I am glad that CGA was represented. We understand that it’s not going to happen overnight but we have to be part of the discussion.”

During presentations, Dr. Dave Preble, vice president, ADA Practice Institute, addressed ways a dental benefit could be designed in Medicare. Other presentations included Paul Bragan of Wakefield Consulting, who shared research from focus groups done in conjunction with the ADA Health Policy Institute from seniors in Chicago and Tampa, Florida. The results revealed an understanding that a benefit will add a cost, one that would impact some seniors more than others, and that a benefit must focus on necessary care and may have additional costs or limitations.

“This symposium served as a meeting ground for collaborating and idea sharing,” said Beth Truett, president and chief executive officer, Oral Health America. “The presentations opened the door for in-depth discussions for moving toward our goal of a dental benefit in Medicare.”