Medicare for All Proposes Oral Health Coverage
Several Medicare for All proposals set to go before Congress aim to integrate dental care into comprehensive health care.
Several Medicare for All proposals set to go before Congress aim to integrate dental care into comprehensive health care. If approved, the bills will secure access to preventive dental services for low-income families regardless of where they live. Health care providers and public health advocacy groups have long supported incorporating oral health care into standard health coverage.
The Medicare Dental Benefit Act of 2019 (S.22) adds a dental benefit to Medicare Part B covering services that are necessary to prevent disease. The act also supports services that promote oral health and treat emergency conditions. A provision under Medicare Part B signifies that all beneficiaries would receive coverage, including those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans.
Compared to individuals with good oral health, patients with poor oral health are more likely to experience a variety of general health issues. Untreated caries, for example, can negatively affect a child’s sleep, overall health and school performance. For adults, untreated dental diseases can increase the risk of cardiovascular conditions, including heart attack and stroke.
“Although it may be too early for one coverage expansion proposal to take root, every effort can steer the U.S. health care system toward a plan that better meets the needs of all people. Especially with proposals that rely on a program as influential as Medicare,” says Meg Booth, MPH, executive director of the nonprofit Children’s Dental Health Project. “It is essential to ensure that any universal coverage strategy doesn’t further entrench a flawed model that walls off one part of the body from another, or dices up coverage between children, parents and other adults.”
From Decisions in Dentistry. July/August 2019;5(7):10.