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More Than 75 Members Unveil Legislation to Provide Dental, Vision, and Hearing Care in Medicare

July 6, 2021

***Press Release***

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 6, 2021

Contact: Kate Stotesbery

202-494-4620

 

More Than 75 Members Unveil Legislation to Provide Dental, Vision, and Hearing Care in Medicare

Washington, D.C. – This morning, U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Chair of the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee, announced that he is leading 76 Members of Congress in introducing the Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act to expand the care Medicare provides.

“This bill offers more care from Medicare responding to basic dental, hearing, and vision impairments for seniors and individuals with disabilities. It fulfills the original purpose of Medicare—to assure dignity—helping those who have difficulty seeing, hearing, or eating,” said Congressman Doggett. “This legislation provides Medicare beneficiaries swift access to necessary preventative care in 2022 and additional services thereafter. It treats dental, vision, and hearing care the same as existing health care under Medicare, with no cost-sharing for preventative care and no more than the standard 20% copay for all other services. The alternative of expanding Medicare coverage with steep copays would offer false hope to those who cannot afford care today. The best way of securing meaningful advancement of better Medicare is this fall, through Reconciliation.”

Mounting evidence indicates the importance of dental, vision, and hearing health to overall health, as outlined in findings in a 2018 Commonwealth Fund Report:

  • Vision – While individuals 70 and older account for about 80% of the 2.8 million Americans with low vision, 43 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who had trouble seeing did not have an eye exam in the past year.  Sensory impairments that go untreated, such as vision loss, not only diminish quality of life, but increase the risk of costly health outcomes such as disability, depression, cognitive impairment and dementia.
  • Hearing – Among all Medicare beneficiaries, 75 percent who needed a hearing aid did not have one, which can range in cost from $1,000 to $6,000. When Medicare doesn’t provide a helping hand, a $4,500 mid-level hearing aid is an unaffordable luxury for too many.
  • Dental – 70 percent of seniors who had trouble eating because of their teeth have not gone to the dentist in the past year. Poor oral health can also impede social interactions and worsen other chronic health conditions – acute challenges for seniors and individuals with disabilities.

The Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act updates the Medicare benefits package to ensure that all beneficiaries have access to crucial items and services that are important to their overall health. The bill makes the following changes to federal law:

•       Repeals the outdated statutory exclusion that currently prohibits Medicare from covering most dental, vision, and hearing care.

•       Expands Medicare benefits to include items and services such as dentures, preventative and emergency dental care; refractive eye exams and eyeglasses; and hearing aids and exams.

•       Provides for appropriate payment to health providers through Medicare Part B.

In May, 70% of the House Democratic Caucus urged President Biden to improve Medicare by including dental, hearing, and vision benefits in the American Families Plan. The President’s Budget recognized the importance of this care to the overall health of beneficiaries and called upon Congress to pass legislation establishing these critical benefits.  

The Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act is endorsed by: Families USA, Medicare Rights Center, Social Security Works, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Justice in Aging

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