National Dental Association backs Medicare dental benefits

The National Dental Association has voiced its support for expanded dental benefits under Medicare Part B.

In a Sept. 29 statement, the dental association, which represents more than 7,000 minority dentists, said the proposed $3.5 billion congressional budget reconciliation package that would expand Medicare dental benefits would improve oral health equity by removing the financial barrier to oral care for elderly people and people with disabilities.

About half of Medicare beneficiaries do not seek dental visits because of the associated out-of-pocket costs. Meanwhile, 68 percent of Black people and 61 percent of Hispanic people do not seek oral care, the dental group said.

The bill was introduced by Senate Democrats in July. Efforts to accelerate the adoption of dental coverage began in September after CMS officials projected it would take several years to implement. The American Dental Association voiced opposition to the bill in an Aug. 12 letter to Congress in which it expressed support for a separate program that would provide dental coverage to low-income Medicare seniors with income up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

The ADA also requested that its members share their opposition to the budget reconciliation package with members of Congress.

The National Dental Association also listed several provisions it said would strengthen the bill before final passage, including a comprehensive dental benefit not limited to preventive services, a reimbursement model that would encourage provider participation, implementation of benefits as soon as possible after passage and multiple administrative processes to prevent barriers to provider participation.

The position statement follows a Sept. 15 letter to Congress members in which the National Dental Association urged the passage of expanded Medicare dental benefits.

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