Senate Bill Introduced to Include Dental Benefit as Part of Medicare Part B

Senate Bill Introduced to Include Dental Benefit as Part of Medicare Part B

In early January, Senator Cardin (D-MD) introduced the Medicare Dental Benefit Act of 2019 (S. 22) which would add a comprehensive oral care benefit to the Medicare program. It would repeal a current mandate that prohibits Medicare coverage for such services, and would embed this oral health care benefit into Medicare Part B. Comprehensive services would include things like: routine cleanings and exams, fillings and crowns, major dental work like extractions and root canals, emergency dental care, and other necessary services. Having dental and an oral health care benefit as a core part of Medicare would be a significant improvement and strengthening of the Medicare program, and it would promote the overall health and wellbeing of our nations 55.5 million Medicare beneficiaries.

Currently two-thirds of the elderly and disabled persons on Medicare don’t have any oral health coverage. Often these individuals struggle to afford and receive oral health care services. If they are choosing to pay for food and rent or dental care, most of these beneficiaries forego the latter, causing their overall health to suffer. Not only are oral health conditions often painful, they can cause other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity to worsen. Improving oral health can improve all health outcomes. Thus adding a comprehensive dental and oral health care benefit to Medicare would save the Medicare program money via prevention of costly medical conditions that are the result of unmet oral health needs. And, most importantly, it would improve the wellbeing and financial security of our country’s Medicare beneficiaries.

For more information, read the bill S. 22 – Medicare Dental Benefit Act of 2019.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.