Medicare would cowl dental listening to and eyesight from the Democrats’ finances
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Medicare – the health insurance program most elderly Americans rely on – would cover dental, vision and hearing aids under a budget agreement announced late Tuesday by the Senate Democrats.
The proposal for expanded coverage was part of a plan to spend $ 3.5 trillion over the next decade on climate change, health care and family service programs, all of which are part of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. While there is no certainty that everything in the draft budget will go through the entire Congressional process, Medicare proponents hope that the coverage of the additional benefits will come to fruition.
“This would be a very big deal for the Medicare program and Medicare beneficiaries,” said David Lipschutz, associate director and senior attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy.
“If Congress adds [those] Benefits, it would fill some large gaps in coverage that the program has had since its inception, “said Lipschutz.
Approximately 62.7 million people are enrolled in Medicare, most of whom are 65 years of age and older and rely on Medicare as their primary health insurance. The program was launched by President Lyndon Johnson’s Congressional legislation in 1965, and at the time it largely reflected standards of health care that did not include full coverage for dental, visual and hearing aids, Lipschutz said.
“But Medicare has often been slow to catch up as the health system evolves,” he said.
Original Medicare consists of Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (ambulance insurance). With limited exceptions, there is no coverage for dental, visual or hearing damage, which could result in beneficiaries foregoing care.
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“That would be a significant improvement [to provide coverage] for people who often go without care because they cannot afford it and for people who pay a lot for the care they need, “said Tricia Neuman, executive director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Medicare program.
Some beneficiaries receive limited dental, visual and hearing aid coverage if they choose to receive their Part A and Part B benefits through a Benefit Plan (Part C), which often includes these extras. Approximately 40% of beneficiaries are enrolled in Advantage plans.
However, Lipschutz said the additional coverage is generally not comprehensive. On the other hand, if extended benefits – no matter how generous – were required under the original Medicare, they would become standard in an Advantage plan.
“We hope this enriches the benefits for all beneficiaries,” said Lipschutz.
Although details of how the expanded coverage would be funded were not released, Biden has proposed imposing higher taxes on the rich and corporate.
The Senate Democrats’ announcement also provided few details about the proposed changes, although other efforts to expand Medicare coverage may provide some clues.
A house law tabled last week by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, would cover things like dentures, preventive and emergency dental care, refractive eye exams and glasses, and hearing aids and exams.
The expanded coverage was also included in a broader health bill that the House approved in 2019 but was not taken up by the Senate. Under this proposal, the beneficiaries would have paid the standard 20% for some dental care. Larger treatments – bridges, crowns, root canals – would have cost more. Dentures would also have been covered within limits. Routine eye and hearing exams as well as hearing aids, contact lenses and glasses would have been included.