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My View: Dentists' voices must be heard when it comes to Medicare expansion

October 08, 2021

Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D.

Image of Capitol and Medicare card 

Photo of ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson
Dr. Klemmedson
Oral health is integral to general health, and we must always seek opportunities to improve utilization of that care for all Americans — including older Americans.

Therefore, as Congress intends to act on adding dental benefits to Medicare Part B, our profession has a duty to respond.

As of Oct. 5, the Medicare Part B dental expansion had passed three key House committees but still needs to pass the House Rules Committee before heading to the House floor for a vote. The Senate is working on its own version of the bill.

Considering the speed at which the Medicare proposal is moving through Congress, I am writing to my colleagues to underscore the importance of our profession’s involvement on the issue.

Whether you support or oppose it, an expansion of Medicare to include a dental benefit in Part B will have an effect on you and your practice — from commercial insurance reimbursement rates to disruptions in your patient base.

Therefore, the ADA is advocating for a benefit to not be included in Part B, as the Part B fee schedule and administrative requirements are designed for physicians, and would likely not work for dentists.

Instead, we want to make sure that a new Medicare dental benefit aligns with ADA policy and will be a financially sustainable program that offers a meaningful and affordable benefit that is designed to ensure access to care for low-income seniors, whose income is up to 300% of the federal poverty level.
This would provide coverage for a range of services to help seniors achieve and maintain oral health.

If we do not advocate on this issue, Congress will act without our input, thereby creating a Medicare dental program that will not benefit patients or practitioners.
Our involvement is also responsive to our organization’s duty, mission and vision, which call on us to advance the health of the public and help our members succeed.

Our profession cannot ignore the process happening in Washington, D.C., if we want to effect change.

We must continue to implement an advocacy strategy that represents ADA policy and supports our dentists and our patients, especially where the need for care is most critical — low-income seniors.

Dr. Daniel J. Klemmedson is the president of the American Dental Association.