The Benefits & “How To” of Creating an Oral Health Benefit in Medicare

The Benefits & “How To” of Creating an Oral Health Benefit in Medicare

Did you know that over 50% of older adults don’t have access to oral health care? This is the case despite the fact that one in five older adults have untreated tooth decay and 70% have gum disease. The numbers are even higher among older adults of color, those with low-incomes and/or less education, and those living in more rural regions largely because of a lack of affordable dental care options. Dental care is often expensive and with half of our country’s Medicare beneficiaries having annual incomes below $26,200, affording dental care is beyond financial reach. Yet, having access to good oral health care is important for one’s overall health, and untreated dental issues exacerbates or can cause other serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. This is why creating a dental and oral health care benefit in the Medicare program is critical to the health and wellbeing of our country’s 55.5 million Medicare beneficiaries.

Our partners, Justice in Aging, recently released an issue brief, Creating an Oral Health Benefit in Medicare: A Statutory Analysis, that examines the state of America’s older adults’ oral health, and advocates for adding an oral health benefit to Medicare Part B. It examines current statutory provisions that prohibit the coverage of oral health care, and proposes statutory changes to add the critically needed oral health and dental benefit as a Medicare Part B covered service. Please read the issue brief and share, and support the current Medicare Dental Benefit Act of 2019 (S. 22).

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.