January Legislative Updates
Coverage of Dental Services Under Medicare
On January 3, 2019, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the Medicare Dental Benefit Act of 2019 (S.22), a bill to provide for coverage of dental services under the Medicare program. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has cosponsored the bill.
Currently, Medicare does not pay for routine oral healthcare like checkups, cleanings and x-rays, restorative procedures, or dentures under Medicare Part B. Such care could help reduce incidents of tooth loss and gum disease in older Americans, Cardin’s office reports. S.22 specifically expands Part B benefits to cover dental and oral health services including routine cleanings and exams, fillings and crowns, major services such as root canals and extractions, emergency dental care, and other necessary services.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five adults over the age of 65 have lost all of their teeth. Also, about 68% of adults age 65 and older have gum disease.
On January 15, 2019, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) reintroduced the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act (H.R.576) to expand Medicare coverage to include eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dental care. Some 78 Democrats have cosponsored this legislation.
Medical Device Tax
With the defeat of Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) in the recent elections, Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) is stepping forward to be the lead sponsor of legislation to address the medical device excise tax in this 116th Congress. His office indicates the introduction of the bill will be in late February or early March.
Senate legislation is expected to be introduced at the same time.
Veterans Affairs Legislation
On January 3, 2019, Rep.Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced a bill to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish dental care in the same manner as any other medical services (H.R.96). Some 34 Democrats have cosponsored the bill at this time.
Rep. Brownley was elected Chairwoman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health for the 116th Congress.