Five decades later, medicare could cover dental care

But more and more research is showing how closely related dental health is to overall health. Dental problems, along with the inflammati...


But more and more research is showing how closely related dental health is to overall health. Dental problems, along with the inflammation and bacteria that accompany them, can make other chronic conditions worse, such as diabetes and heart disease. And missing or sore teeth can make it difficult to eat a healthy diet. Dental infections can be painful – they are a main cause of emergency room visits – and, In rare cases, deadly.

“Dental care is health care, and dental care must be a part of any serious health care program in the United States,” said Senator Sanders.

Medicare coverage would give elderly and disabled patients a way to pay for their care, but there is no guarantee that dentists around the world would accept it. Almost every doctor and hospital in the country subscribes to Medicare, but dentists have built their businesses for the past 50 years without relying on the program. Many dentists in private practice refuse to accept Medicaid, saying the payments are too low and the administrative burden too heavy.

“If you give someone a covered benefit and they have nowhere to go, then that doesn’t make sense,” said Tess Kuenning, president of the Bistate Primary Care Association, a group for health centers. communities in Vermont and New Hampshire. Ms Kuenning urged lawmakers to ensure payment rates that would be attractive to dentists and investments in public health dentists like Dr Rulon, who would be more inclined than private practice dentists to treat Medicare patients.

But optimists see Medicare dental coverage as something that could do more than just improve affordability for beneficiaries. It could also change long-held standards on what health insurance should cover. Historically, medicare plans have tended to ignore the health issues “in your head”: omitting dental coverage, vision benefits, hearing aids, and mental health. Congress began requiring mental health coverage about 15 years ago, starting with Medicare and then expanding to other types of plans. Access to mental health care is still uneven, but it is increasingly seen as part of health care.

“When Medicare moves, everyone moves,” said Michael Costa, CEO of Northern Counties Health Care and former senior Vermont health policy official.

In the meantime, Medicare patients treated at Hardwick continue to make difficult choices. When 66-year-old Gina Brown came recently for a teeth cleaning, Dr Rulon discovered cavities near a root – decay that could quickly cost her tooth. She was back in the chair for a fill that afternoon. She had full health coverage through her work with adults with developmental disabilities, she said, but her dental benefits were “very limited.” She could afford to repair that ailing front tooth, but not a partial denture to replace molars she had lost years ago, when money was tight and dental care out of reach.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Five decades later, medicare could cover dental care
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