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Ways and Means advances proposal calling for expanded Medicare

Some lawmakers express concerns on legislation's feasibility

September 11, 2021

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The House Ways and Means Committee Sept. 10 advanced key parts of a $3.5 trillion spending bill that includes a proposal to expand Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing benefits for seniors.

The House committee approved the proposal with all but one Democrat, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., voting in favor, and no Republicans supporting the measure. The bill now moves to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The ADA opposes the proposal and has offered an alternative approach to expand access for seniors that adheres to the ADA’s policy, which supports the oral health care of those 65 and older by including a range of services necessary to achieve and maintain oral health for beneficiaries with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level.

During discussions, many members of Congress expressed concern with expanding Medicare Part B to include dental.

In particular, Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., expressed his frustration that no one on the committee reached out to him regarding the expansion even though he is the only member of the committee that is a dentist. He also noted that none of the other four dentists members of Congress were consulted to provide input.

“To my knowledge there isn’t but one person in this room who has ever laid a hand on a patient in a dental practice,” said Rep. Ferguson, who added, “particularly in a rural community who can probably provide [committee members and staff] with a heck of a lot of good guidance on how to take care of seniors. There ain't but one person in here in this room and on this committee and that's me.”

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, the other doctor on Ways and Means, also shared concerns regarding the current reimbursement struggles Medicare providers face.

“Today we’re discussing adding three major new benefits to the traditional Medicare program,” Rep. Wenstrup said. “As many of my colleagues have pointed out, many of these benefits are already available to seniors through Medicare Advantage. The Democrats plan to add a less comprehensive benefit than what already exists in Medicare Advantage. Further they plan to add these benefits to an already unstable fee-for-service program that is failing our nation’s health care providers and limiting access to care.”

The ADA continues to urge all dentists to contact their members of Congress to oppose the proposed legislation. To do so, visit ActionCenter.ADA.org.

For more information, visit ADA.org/Medicare.