Horsford, Kelly Introduce Bill to Provide Medicare Dental Coverage
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Steven Horsford (D-NV-04) and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) have introduced the Medicare Dental Coverage Act, which would expand Medicare Part B to cover most dental services, including preventive dental care, routine dental treatments, and dentures.
“Dental health is an essential part of overall health,” said Congressman Steven Horsford. “Without affordable dental coverage through Medicare, Nevada seniors are forced to choose between high out-of-pocket costs and a lower quality of life. As I work to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs, I’m excited to introduce the Medicare Dental Coverage Act, which will expand access to dental coverage for more than 300,000 Nevada seniors.”
“Prolonged lack of access to dental care can lead to other serious medical conditions, and communities of color are disproportionately impacted. Bad oral health has been linked to heart disease, dementia, kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis,” said Congresswoman Kelly. “Rep. Horsford and I are introducing the Medicare Dental Coverage Act to ensure that every Medicare beneficiary can receive affordable dental care to keep themselves healthy and prevent unnecessary healthcare costs down the line.”
Currently, nearly 37 million Medicare beneficiaries lack access to dental care, putting them at risk for preventable health issues. Without treatment, oral conditions such as cavities, severe gum disease, and severe tooth loss can exacerbate chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and have been linked to increased mortality for those with chronic kidney disease.
Medicare Part B currently excludes coverage for most dental services. As a result, many seniors are forced to pay burdensome out-of-pocket costs or forego treatment. In a recent AARP survey, about half of older adults cited cost as a reason for skipping dental exams. In 2016, a fifth of Medicare beneficiaries who used dental services spent more than $1,000 out-of-pocket.
Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by dental health inequities. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, 71% of Black Medicare beneficiaries and 65% of Hispanic beneficiaries went without a dental visit in the previous year, compared to 43% of white beneficiaries.
The Medicare Dental Coverage Act of 2021 would:
- Reimburse dentists and other licensed oral health professionals for preventive and screening services such as oral exams, dental cleanings, dental x-rays, and fluoride treatments.
- Cover basic and major dental treatments as defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
- Medicare beneficiaries would be eligible to receive two oral exams and two dental cleanings each year.
- Cover a full or partial set of dentures once every five years, or more frequently in cases where a dentist or qualified oral health professional determines the dentures do not fit the individual.