WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) today are introduced legislation to enable more Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries to access comprehensive dental, vision, and hearing coverage. Medicare does not cover those services, leaving many beneficiaries with no other options but to buy stopgap, short-term plans or go without coverage, often facing exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for basic care. Medicaid can provide optional dental, vision, and hearing services, but the extent of the coverage varies by state. The Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act would allow Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing services and increase the federal investment in Medicaid, incentivizing more states to provide these comprehensive services.
“More than 40 percent of Americans are enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid. Among adults, most of these individuals do not have comprehensive health coverage for vision, dental or hearing benefits, often leaving them without the care they need to protect their health and quality of life,” said Senator Cardin. “Congress has an opportunity to ensure that serious health conditions can be avoided or caught early enough to prevent complications or more costly treatments regardless of where someone lives or their income. Our legislation will make a real difference in so many lives.”
“Because of a patchwork of limited health care coverage options for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, many older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income families have inconsistent access to basic dental, vision, and hearing services. Cost should not be a barrier to care, and all Americans deserve access to comprehensive dental, vision, and hearing coverage, no matter what state they live in or how much money they make. This bill builds on the promise of Medicaid and Medicare to expand services that people need and help them avoid costly emergencies,” said Senator Casey.
Research shows that untreated dental, vision, and hearing problems can have negative physical and mental health consequences. People with lower incomes are three times more likely to have four or more untreated cavities than adults with higher incomes or private insurance. Vision loss is associated with increased fall risks and mobility limitations among older adults, while hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of social isolation and cognitive decline.
The Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act would strengthen coverage for dental, vision, and hearing services under Medicare by repealing the statutory exclusion that restricts coverage of such services. It would expand Medicare coverage to ensure beneficiaries are covered for routine exams and other preventive care, as well as coverage for items like dentures, eyeglasses, and hearing aids. The legislation would also encourage states to provide their optional dental, hearing, and vision services to people with Medicaid by increasing the associated Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate to 90 percent.
Read more about the Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act here.