The need for Expanded Medicare and Dental Coverage is pressing, given the impending healthcare crisis. As policymakers contemplate reducing funding for vital community programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, older Americans grapple with obstacles to essential healthcare, including access to dental coverage and services. A report from Oral Health America underscores the growing dental crisis among older Americans.
Challenges in Dental Coverage:
According to the report, several challenges contribute to the dental crisis:
- Lack of affordable dental coverage options.
- Service provider shortages.
- Absence of preventive programs in communities nationwide.
These challenges place significant burdens on older adults seeking dental care.
To address these issues and enhance public health, we must consider policy solutions that prioritize dental coverage. Some critical solutions include:
- Expanding dental coverage within Medicare and Medicaid.
- Designating dental coverage as an "essential health benefit" under the Affordable Care Act, expanding access to services for those under 65.
- Implementing state mandates to provide dental healthcare within Medicaid, ensuring equitable service provider payment.
Several bills have been introduced in Congress to address the dental crisis among seniors and individuals with disabilities. Notable ones include:
- The Comprehensive Dental Reform Act of 2013, which extends comprehensive dental coverage to all seniors covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration.
- The Special Care Dentistry Act of 2011, which would require states to provide dental health services to seniors, the blind, and disabled individuals under the Medicaid program, with 100% federal funding.
Strengthening community education, improving dental service provider payments, and addressing shortages are vital to tackling the dental crisis affecting seniors and individuals with disabilities. The lack of dental coverage in Medicare and Medicaid, along with the high cost of private insurance options, continues to impede access to necessary care. To improve and modernize Medicare and Medicaid, policy changes must expand coverage and benefits, including comprehensive dental care, while ensuring affordable access to healthcare.
- "Oral Health America, State of Decay: Are Older Americans Coming of Age without Oral Healthcare?" available at http://www.toothwisdom.org/action.
- CNN, "Dental crisis could create 'State of Decay.'"
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Chronic Conditions Among Medicare Beneficiaries, 2012 Chartbook, available at http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/Chronic-Conditions/Downloads/2012Chartbook.pdf.
- Center for Medicare Advocacy, Fournier v. Leavitt, more at http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/fournier-v-leavitt/.
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