(WTAJ) – U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) is introducing legislation to increase dental, vision and hearing coverage under Medicaid and Medicare.
According to Casey, Medicare does not cover those services meaning that many are left to go without coverage or buy short-term plans. That also means that Americans could face out-of-pocket costs for basic care.
The Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act would allow Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing services and increase the federal investment in Medicaid, incentivizing more states to provide these comprehensive services.
The bill is also being introduced by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).
“Because of a patchwork of limited healthcare coverage options for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, many older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income families have inconsistent access to basic dental, vision, and hearing services,” Senator Casey said. “Cost should not be a barrier to care, and all Americans deserve access to comprehensive dental, vision, and hearing coverage, no matter what state they live in or how much money they make. This bill builds on the promise of Medicaid and Medicare to expand services that people need and help them avoid costly emergencies.”
Research shows that untreated dental, vision, and hearing problems can have negative physical and mental health consequences. People with lower incomes are three times more likely to have four or more untreated cavities than adults with higher incomes or private insurance. Vision loss is associated with increased fall risks and mobility limitations among older adults while hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of social isolation and cognitive decline.
The Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act would strengthen coverage for dental, vision, and hearing services under Medicare by repealing the statutory exclusion that restricts coverage of such services.
It would expand Medicare coverage to ensure beneficiaries are covered for routine exams and other preventive care, as well as coverage for items like dentures, eyeglasses, and hearing aids. The legislation would also encourage states to provide their optional dental, hearing, and vision services to people with Medicaid by increasing the associated Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate to 90 percent.
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Read more about the Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act here.