Currently, more than 55 million older adults access health care services through Medicare; however, they are limited when it comes to accessing oral health. Original Medicare does not cover routine preventive or restorative services such as screenings, exams, cleanings, fillings, or extractions.
In order to better understand older adults’ views and attitudes on adding a dental benefit to Medicare, OHA and the ADA HPI, commissioned Wakefield Research to conduct a series of focus groups with adults aged 50+. Findings showed that an increasing number of older adults understand the link between oral health and overall health and virtually all agreed, despite cost concerns, that dental coverage, was the top priority over hearing, vision, or long-term care.
Understanding the importance of maintaining good oral health and the costs associated with it, 93% of the older adults surveyed would like to see the current Medicare system change to fit the needs of the older adults it serves and, as a result, include dental coverage as a benefit in Medicare. However, opinion varied when asked what that benefit should look like and which trade-offs would be acceptable to achieve advantages in other areas. For example, should coverage be limited to preventive care only or more extensive restorative care be included too?
This infographic summarizes the results from the OHA-HPI focus groups, including the trade-offs and pros and cons discussed. Maintaining a healthy mouth is one of the keys to independence as we age because of the vital connection to overall health. The views and opinions collected in this study will be critical moving forward as we think about innovations in oral healthcare and work to promote oral health equity for older adults.