WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) praised the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for including an expansion of dental health coverage under Medicare in a key list of proposed rule changes announced Thursday by CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. As noted in her statement, “Medicare Part B currently pays for dental services when that service is integral to medically necessary services required to treat a beneficiary’s primary medical condition.” The proposed rule would expand the medically necessary conditions tied to dental coverage. In addition, CMS is seeking input that helps define “when additional dental services may be integral to the clinical success of other medical services.”
“Good oral health is essential for good overall health, especially for those with chronic conditions,” Senator Cardin said. “If we can increase the access and affordability of dental care for older Americans, it will pay dividends in the quality of health for millions.”
Last month, in a letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure with 21 Senate colleagues, Cardin stressed the need to expand coverage of medically necessary oral and dental health services to improve the health of Americans enrolled in Medicare and potentially cut costs for the program. Cardin is the lead sponsor of the Medicare Dental Benefit Act of 2021 (S. 97), which would provide coverage for dental services under Medicare Part B.
Nearly half of all Medicare beneficiaries – 24 million people – do not have dental coverage. Oral health is closely linked to physical health and it’s been found that poor oral health can increase risk of many chronic conditions that Medicare beneficiaries already face, including heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, and diabetes. Expanded dental health coverage could reduce costs to Medicare by strengthening treatment of some of the most persistent medical conditions covered by the program.