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William Stork of Cedar Hill, Missouri, is delaying a surgical tooth extraction in the hope that Congress will add a dental benefit to Medicare as part of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better legislative package. The public insurance program for people 65 and older has excluded dental (and vision and hearing) coverage since its inception in 1965.

Kaiser Health News

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William Stork needs a tooth out. That’s what the 71-year-old retired truck driver’s dentist told him during a recent checkup.

That kind of extraction requires an oral surgeon, which could cost him around $1,000 because, like most seniors, Stork does not have dental insurance, and Medicare won’t cover his dental bills. Between Social Security and his pension from the Teamsters union, Stork said, he lives comfortably in Cedar Hill, Missouri, about 30 miles southwest of St. Louis. But that cost is significant enough that he’s decided to wait until the tooth absolutely must come out.

Nearly half of seniors didn’t visit dentist — rates higher for Blacks, Hispanics

Stork’s predicament is at the heart of a long-simmering rift within the dental profession that has reemerged as a battle over how to add dental coverage to Medicare, the public insurance program for people 65 and older — if a benefit can pass at all.

Health equity advocates see President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide dental coverage to those on Medicare, nearly half of whom did not visit a dentist in 2018, well before the pandemic paused dental appointments for many. The rates were even higher for Black (68%), Hispanic (61%) and low-income (73%) seniors.

The coverage was left out of a new framework announced by President Biden, but proponents still hope they can get the coverage in a final agreement. Complicating their push is a debate over how many of the nation’s more than 60 million Medicare beneficiaries should receive it.

Champions for covering everyone on Medicare find themselves up against an unlikely adversary: the American Dental Association, which is backing an alternative plan to give dental benefits only to low-income Medicare recipients.

Medicare has excluded dental (and vision and hearing) coverage since its inception in 1965. That exclusion was by design: The dental profession has long fought to keep itself separate from the traditional medical system.

READ NEXT: Drug costs are of control on Medicare — especially insulin. This proposal could help.

More recently, however, dentists have stressed the link between oral and overall health. Most infamously, the 2007 death of a 12-year-old boy that might have been prevented by an $80 tooth extraction prompted changes to Maryland’s version of Medicaid, the federal-state public insurance program for low-income people.

But researchers have also, for example, linked dental care with reduced healthcare spending in patients with Type 2 diabetes. When the World Health Organization suggested delaying

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2 min read

The White House-backed social spending framework will feature a pared-down expansion of both Medicare and Medicaid coverage as President BidenJoe BidenBiden administration takes aim at methane emissions McConnell blasts potential payments to separated migrant families Poll: 50 percent of Republicans don’t believe their vote will be counted accurately MORE seeks to secure enough support to advance the legislation.

The framework, previewed for reporters Thursday morning ahead of Biden’s meeting with House Democrats, would offer four years of subsidized private health insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges for people with lower incomes living in states that did not expand Medicaid under the health care law.

According to the White House, the plan would provide $0 premiums for 4 million people in the “coverage gap,” meaning they don’t earn enough to qualify for ACA subsidies but, since they live in a nonexpansion state, also make too much to qualify for Medicaid. 

The temporary plan is more industry-friendly than the proposal offered by House Democrats in September, which would have created an entirely new “Medicaid-like” government program to provide coverage in the 12 nonexpansion states.

While many Democrats backed the idea, it was opposed in recent days by Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOn The Money — Presented by Citi — Progressives shrug off Manchin warning Cori Bush rips Manchin on spending bill opposition: ‘Anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman and anti-immigrant’ Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Glasgow summit kicks off MORE (D-W.Va.) and other lawmakers from states that have been paying for expanded Medicaid for years. They argued it wouldn’t be fair for their constituents if the federal government paid the whole cost of the holdout states to expand.

But at the same time, the temporary plan could be easier to set up and may avoid pushback from industry groups that worry a new federal program is a stepping stone to a larger-scale, government-run “public option.”

Backers of Medicaid expansion, including House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Georgia Democratic Sens. Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockBiden reconciliation framework includes Medicaid workaround, no Medicare dental or vision benefits Senate GOP lines up behind Trump-backed candidates Perdue mulling primary challenge against Kemp in Georgia: report MORE and Jon OssoffJon OssoffBiden reconciliation framework includes Medicaid workaround, no Medicare dental or vision benefits Perdue mulling primary challenge against Kemp in Georgia: report McConnell backs Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate race MORE, wanted it to run for as long as possible.

On Medicare, the framework will expand coverage for hearing benefits, which is just one-third of what progressives were pushing for. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders hits back at Manchin’s spending concerns Manchin frustrates Democrats with latest outburst Democrats race to reach deal on prescription drug pricing MORE (I-Vt.) has drawn a line in the sand in recent days, saying that adding dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare in Democrats’ social spending package is “not negotiable.”

Progressives have long been pushing for expanding the Medicare benefits, but dental benefits

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2 min read

William Stork needs a tooth out. That’s what the 71-year-old retired truck driver’s dentist told him during a recent checkup.

That kind of extraction requires an oral surgeon, which could cost him around $1,000 because, like most seniors, Stork does not have dental insurance, and Medicare won’t cover his dental bills. Between Social Security and his pension from the Teamsters union, Stork said, he lives comfortably in Cedar Hill, Missouri, about 30 miles southwest of St. Louis. But that cost is significant enough that he’s decided to wait until the tooth absolutely must come out.

Stork’s predicament is at the heart of a long-simmering rift within the dental profession that has reemerged as a battle over how to add dental coverage to Medicare, the public insurance program for people 65 and older — if a benefit can pass at all.

Health equity advocates see President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide dental coverage to those on Medicare, nearly half of whom did not visit a dentist in 2018, well before the pandemic paused dental appointments for many. The rates were even higher for Black (68%), Hispanic (61%) and low-income (73%) seniors.

The coverage was left out of a new framework announced by President Joe Biden on Thursday, but proponents still hope they can get the coverage in a final agreement. Complicating their push is a debate over how many of the nation’s more than 60 million Medicare beneficiaries should receive it.

Champions for covering everyone on Medicare find themselves up against an unlikely adversary: the American Dental Association, which is backing an alternative plan to give dental benefits only to low-income Medicare recipients.

Medicare has excluded dental (and vision and hearing) coverage since its inception in 1965. That exclusion was by design: The dental profession has long fought to keep itself separate from the traditional medical system.

More recently, however, dentists have stressed the link between oral and overall health. Most infamously, the 2007 death of a 12-year-old boy that might have been prevented by an $80 tooth extraction prompted changes to Maryland’s version of Medicaid, the federal-state public insurance program for low-income people. But researchers have also, for example, linked dental care with reduced health care spending in patients with Type 2 diabetes. When the World Health Organization suggested delaying non-urgent oral health visits last year to prevent the spread of covid-19, the American Dental Association pushed back, with then-President Dr. Chad Gehani saying, “Oral health is integral to overall health. Dentistry is essential health care.”

The ADA-backed Medicare proposal would cover only seniors who earn up to three times the poverty level. That currently translates to $38,640 a year for an individual, reducing the number of potential recipients from over 60 million people to roughly half that number. Medicare has never required means testing, but in a world where Congress is looking to trim the social-spending package from $3.5 trillion over 10 years to $1.85 trillion, the ADA presents

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2 min read

Like many seniors, William Stork of Cedar Hill, Mo., lacks dental insurance and doesn’t want to pay $1,000 for a tooth extraction he needs. Health advocates see President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide dental coverage to people like Stork who are on Medicare. An unlikely adversary: the American Dental Association.

Joe Martinez for Kaiser Health News


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Joe Martinez for Kaiser Health News


Like many seniors, William Stork of Cedar Hill, Mo., lacks dental insurance and doesn’t want to pay $1,000 for a tooth extraction he needs. Health advocates see President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide dental coverage to people like Stork who are on Medicare. An unlikely adversary: the American Dental Association.

Joe Martinez for Kaiser Health News

William Stork needs a tooth out. That’s what the 71-year-old retired truck driver’s dentist told him during a recent checkup.

That kind of extraction requires an oral surgeon, which could cost him around $1,000 because, like most seniors, Stork does not have dental insurance, and Medicare won’t cover his dental bills. Between Social Security and his pension from the Teamsters union, Stork says, he is able to live comfortably in Cedar Hill, Mo., about 30 miles southwest of St. Louis.

But that $1,000 cost is significant enough that he has decided to wait until the tooth absolutely must come out.

Stork’s predicament is at the heart of a long-simmering rift within the dental profession that has reemerged as a battle over how to add dental coverage to Medicare, the public insurance program for people 65 and older — if a benefit can pass at all.

A once-in-a-generation opportunity

Health equity advocates see President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide dental coverage for those on Medicare, nearly half of whom did not visit a dentist in 2018 — well before the pandemic paused dental appointments for many people. The rates were even higher for Black (68%), Hispanic (61%) and low-income (73%) seniors.

The coverage was left out of a new framework announced by Biden on Thursday, but proponents still hope they can get the coverage in a final agreement. Complicating their push is a debate over how many of the nation’s more than 60 million Medicare beneficiaries should receive it.

Advocates of dental coverage for everyone on Medicare find themselves up against an unlikely adversary: the American Dental Association, which is backing an alternative plan that would give dental benefits only to low-income Medicare recipients.

Medicare has excluded dental (and vision and hearing) coverage since its inception in 1965. That exclusion was by design: The dental profession has long fought to keep itself separate from the traditional medical system in order to preserve the field’s autonomy.

Dental care and health are intertwined

More recently, however, dentists have stressed the link between oral and overall health. Most infamously, the 2007 death of a 12-year-old boy that might have been prevented by an $80

Read More...
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