50th Anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid
Today, on July 30th, Oral Health America, together with Decisions in Dentistry and other organizations and individuals across the country celebrate the 50th birthday of Medicare and Medicaid. In 1965 more than half of older adults in the US were uninsured. Currently, 54 million older adults and persons with disabilities have affordable healthcare coverage because of Medicare. Throughout the years, Medicare has evolved to meet the changing health and economic needs of older Americans.
Medicare and Medicaid has provided low-income vulnerable older adults, living with multiple chronic diseases with dual eligibility to protect them from the devastation that can result from unaffordable out of pockets costs. In 2003, Medicare Part D was established to ensure older adults could pay for prescription drugs they needed to maintain health. Most recently, in 2010, the importance of early disease detection for older Americans to curb disease and subdue costs was acknowledged. Through the Affordable Care Act, older adults can now access free preventive services.
Although Medicare revolutionized the way older adults access and pay for healthcare, many critical health benefits are excluded, such as routine and preventive dental services. Each day 10,000 older Americans are retiring. In fact, this cohort is expected to reach 72.1 million by year 2030.
“Maintaining a healthy mouth is one of the keys to independence as we age because of the vital connection to overall health and well-being,” said Beth Truett, President & CEO of Oral Health America.“ However, 70% of older Americans lack dental insurance because of inadequate financial resources and the need to cover the costs of daily living, like housing, food and transportation. This is a situation in a country as wealthy as ours that must be addressed in our lifetime.”
Today’s older adults are living more independently than previous generations. Nearly 90 percent of older adults want to stay in their own homes as they age, often referred to as “Aging in Place.” While improvements in oral health across the lifespan have been observed in the last half century, it is up to us to raise awareness and create good policy to ensure that older Americans have the opportunity to live healthy, independently and in their homes.
For more information about Oral Health America’s advocacy efforts, please visit oralhealthamerica.org/take-action.