Washington — The House Committee on Energy and Commerce advanced provisions of a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package Sept. 15 that includes a proposal to expand Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing benefits.
The bill calls for vision benefits to begin in 2022, hearing in 2023 and dental in 2028.
The ADA is opposed to the Medicare dental provision as proposed in the committee-passed bill, but does support an alternative proposal expanding access to oral health care for low-income seniors. The ADA proposal is in line with ADA policy and includes a range of services necessary to achieve and maintain oral health for beneficiaries with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level.
While the committee voted to advance the proposal, some lawmakers expressed concerns. In particular, Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., who voted against the proposal, said he was worried about adding additional services to Medicare given that the program is “facing insolvency” in five years.
“We’ve sort of forgotten that fact,” he said, adding, “I think there’s a better alternative out there to provide dental benefits that seniors can actually afford.”
Rep. Schrader instead advocated for the ADA’s proposal, which establishes “voluntary Medicare dental benefits for our beneficiaries most in need of dental insurance coverage” and would also cover a range of services.
Rep. Schrader said this proposal could potentially be “up and running” in two to three years instead of the current proposal that makes seniors wait until 2028 to have a benefit under Part B.
The ADA proposal also calls for any Medicare dental benefit to be sufficiently funded and efficiently administered to ensure access to care.
The bill, which previously passed the House Ways and Means Committee, now moves to the House Budget Committee and House Rules Committee before heading to the House floor for a full vote. After the House votes, the bill would then move to the Senate.
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.