Congress may give dental coverage to millions of Medicare recipients
Friday, November 01, 2019
Did you know around 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day and can sign up for Medicare? While the program’s 60 million beneficiaries can access dental, vision and hearing through supplemental options such as Advantage plans or standalone insurance policies, original Medicare — Part A and Part B — excludes dental, vision and hearing coverage except in very limited circumstances.
But Medicare recipients might just see better coverage and more services in the new year. Several bills now before Congress would give Medicare participants access to dental, vision and even hearing coverage if passed.
Additionally, the federal government would have authority to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers and to create a cap for Medicare out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs.
All these proposals have cleared the necessary committees over the last few weeks and are now waiting for full action on the floor of the House.
There have been proposals over the years that would do this, but in the past, they haven’t gone anywhere. “But it looks like this time something could get passed in at least one chamber of Congress,” said David Lipschutz, associate director at the Center for Medicare Advocacy.
However,the bills are generally supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans. This means that even if the measures get approved in the Democratic-controlled House, they would face an uphill battle in the Republican-dominated Senate.
Details on the Bills
H.R. 3: Includes provisions to allow the Medicare program to negotiate with drugmakers, cap out-of-pocket spending by beneficiaries on prescriptions at $2,000 and expand the low-income subsidy program, which helps cover Part D premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
H.R. 4650: Would add preventive and screening dental services, including oral exams and cleanings under Part B. It would also cover procedures such as tooth restorations and extractions, bridges, crowns, root canal treatments and implants and dentures. Beneficiaries would chip in the standard 20% for basic treatments and 50% for major treatments.
H.R. 4665: Would add routine eye exams to coverage through Part B, with beneficiaries generally paying 20% of the cost. It also would provide some coverage — $100 — toward contact lenses or eyeglasses.
H.R. 4618: Would provide coverage under Part B for hearing exams and hearing aids, with beneficiaries contributing 20%.
The expanded coverage would, of course, come with a cost. “The majority of people on Medicare still choose to be in [original] Medicare, so having an expansion of benefits would accrue to everyone,” Lipschutz said. “It would be a significant improvement to the program and fill holes that have been there since its inception.”
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