US Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Chair of the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee, announced that he is leading 76 Members of Congress in introducing the Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act to expand the care Medicare provides.

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“This bill offers more care from Medicare responding to basic dental, hearing, and vision impairments for seniors and individuals with disabilities. It fulfills the original purpose of Medicare—to assure dignity—helping those who have difficulty seeing, hearing, or eating,” said Doggett in the announcement. “This legislation provides Medicare beneficiaries swift access to necessary preventative care in 2022 and additional services thereafter. It treats dental, vision, and hearing care the same as existing health care under Medicare, with no cost-sharing for preventative care and no more than the standard 20% copay for all other services. The alternative of expanding Medicare coverage with steep copays would offer false hope to those who cannot afford care today. The best way of securing meaningful advancement of better Medicare is this fall, through Reconciliation.”

Mounting evidence indicates the importance of dental, vision, and hearing health to overall health, as outlined in findings in a 2018 Commonwealth Fund Report:

  • Hearing – Among all Medicare beneficiaries, 75% who needed a hearing aid did not have one, which can range in cost from $1,000 to $6,000. When Medicare doesn’t provide a helping hand, a $4,500 mid-level hearing aid is an unaffordable luxury for too many.

The Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act updates the Medicare benefits package to ensure that all beneficiaries have access to crucial items and services that are important to their overall health. The bill makes the following changes to federal law:

  • Repeals the outdated statutory exclusion that currently prohibits Medicare from covering most dental, vision, and hearing care.
  • Expands Medicare benefits to include items and services such as dentures, preventative and emergency dental care; refractive eye exams and eyeglasses; and hearing aids and exams.
  • Provides for appropriate payment to health providers through Medicare Part B.

In May, 70% of the House Democratic Caucus urged President Biden to improve Medicare by including dental, hearing, and vision benefits in the American Families Plan. The President’s Budget recognized the importance of this care to the overall health of beneficiaries and called upon Congress to pass legislation establishing these critical benefits.  

The Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act is endorsed by: Families USA, Medicare Rights Center, Social Security Works, National Committee to Preserve Social Security, and Medicare, Justice in Aging.

Source: US Representative Lloyd Doggett’s (D-TX) office