Local advocates push for Medicare dental coverage during D.C. visit
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Seniors are often surprised to find out dental coverage is not included in Medicare. But Thursday, hundreds of Medicare advocates took over Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to change that.
Congress is considering a massive prescription drug pricing plan. Democrats are including a provision that allow for dental and vision coverage under Medicare, a welcome sign to those advocates.
Members of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Oral Health are among 300 dental health advocates meeting with lawmakers. Executive Director Helen Hawkey has seen the impact of lack of coverage first-hand.She worked as a dental hygienist for 12 years in suburban Pittsburgh.
Now, as more Americans are reaching retirement age and living longer, the lack of dental insurance and preventative care for seniors is costing everyone more money, Hawkey said.
The Democrat-led drug pricing plan would allow the government to negotiate prices on high-cost prescriptions. The savings from those deals would go toward dental coverage.
Advocates are pushing congress to add dental benefits to Medicare Part B, a move that could benefit 2.4 million eligible Pennsylvanians.
“The message is that we have to put aside all of the traditional thoughts about supporting Medicare or not supporting Medicare, and understand that prevention as a whole saves money,” Hawkey said.
A survey from the oral healthcare group DentaQuest found nearly 80 percent of Americans support Medicare dental and similar coverage.
Locally, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly isn’t sold on the overall drug pricing plan.
“In H.R. 3, while there are some things we agree with, the danger of what’s being proposed where the government negotiates prices and determines that, it will determine what actually goes onto the shelves,” Kelly said during a Ways & Means Committee hearing on the bill on Tuesday.
There is some stiff opposition to the drug pricing plan here in Congress. But advocates say that’s why they are here on capitol hill, to convince lawmakers this is worth supporting.