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Oral Health America Announces Impactful Medicare Symposium 


CHICAGO, August 22, 2017 — Oral Health America (OHA) recently held its 3rd Annual Medicare Symposium, entitled PART 3: Access for Older Adults – Advocating for Oral Health in Medicare. The invitation-only Symposium fulfilled its goal of bringing together a variety of voices from the fields of aging, public policy, dental and allied healthcare organizations to continue charting a path for the inclusion of a dental benefit in Medicare. 

Held in Alexandria, VA July 19-20, nearly 70 attendees convened to evaluate options for introducing a cost-effective, person-centric dental benefit in Medicare. The overall message was clear and consistent: Oral healthcare coverage in Medicare is essential for the millions of older adults in our country.

“This symposium served as a meeting ground for collaborating and idea sharing,” says Beth Truett, president and CEO of Oral Health America. “The presentations opened the door for in-depth discussions for moving toward our goal of a dental benefit in Medicare.”

In an effort to seek better solutions for the more than 10,000 Americans turning 65 each day, the majority of whom have no dental coverage, PART 3: Access for Older Adults – Advocating for Oral Health in Medicare included candid discussions, brainstorming and group activities to continue a path forward toward the addition of dental coverage in Medicare.

  • The keynote address, delivered by Kevin Prindiville, executive director, Justice in Aging, focused on the theme of hope and the barriers faced by older adults in accessing healthcare, including oral healthcare. A panel presentation by the Diverse Elders Coalition discussed multi-level collaboration through a health equity lens and the need to improve cultural competence and oral health literacy for all.
  • David Preble, DDS, JD, VP of the American Dental Association’s Practice Institute, presented on the balance between cost and plan richness and identified the many programmatic considerations in designing the benefit.
  • Peter Mitchell and members of Salter>Mitchell, Marketing for Change shared results from a highly successful six-week “Demand Medicare Dental” pilot study to educate the public about the need for and importance of an oral health benefit. Informed by years one and two of the Medicare Symposium, the study included consumers’ views and attitudes on a Medicare benefit and a consumer pilot campaign that was launched in Orlando, FL that included a dedicated website, in-person workshops at senior centers, public awareness events, a press conference and a social media campaign.
  • Attendees also learned about research that was conducted in Chicago and Tampa, FL, on what consumers want in a Medicare benefit; a benefit approach that would package vision, hearing and dental as an addition to Medicare; how strategic policy, positioning and pursuit can make Medicare oral healthcare coverage a reality; and the conversations with legislators that need to start now.
  • Breakout sessions allowed the three working groups – Policy & Procedure, Marketing & Communications, and Politics – to create plans with actionable items for the next 3 years to reach the goal of adding a dental benefit in Medicare by 2020.
  • OHA’s Medicare Dental Toolkit was introduced to support allied organizations and policymakers as they work toward a dental coverage in Medicare. Current tools include an infographic, a social media guide with shareables as well as a position paper and supplemental research reports. (oralhealthamerica.org/medicaretoolkit)

Findings from focus groups conducted by Wakefield Research for Oral Health America and the ADA Health Policy Institute were shared at the Symposium showing that older adults favored an oral health benefit over other benefits, including vision, hearing, long-term care and podiatry, for four reasons: nearly all older adults need such services; an understanding that dental health affects overall health; knowing that prevention will help curtail the possibility of future expensive treatments; and the importance of a healthy mouth in one’s self-image, self-confidence and self-efficacy.

“The need has arguably never been as urgent for diverse groups to unite together under a common mission,” said Michael Monopoli, DMD, MPH, MS, Executive Director of the DentaQuest Foundation. “With the collective action and spirit that rose from the Symposium, I have no doubt we will achieve change that improves health for all Americans.”

“We were pleased to be part of this important event,” said ADA President Gary L. Roberts, DDS. “Addressing the oral health needs of older Americans is a key priority for the Association. The ADA remains engaged and at the table to provide its perspective on what the benefit might look like so that it is one that would work for both patients and dentists.”

The Medicare Symposium was co-sponsored by Oral Health America, the DentaQuest Foundation and the American Dental Association.

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