Adding Dental Benefits to Medicare Is a Solution in Search of a Problem

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The massive government expansion bill that congressional Democrats are currently trying to enact includes provisions that would add new dental benefits to...
Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors.

Yet that might prove to be an unpopular move once seniors realize that the proposed changes could leave them with worse dental coverage than they currently enjoy.

We've run the numbers and found that millions of seniors already have dental coverage that is as good as, or better than, what is proposed in this bill. Furthermore, they are getting that better coverage through private Medicare Advantage plans, which seniors can choose as an alternative to traditional government-run Medicare.

It Creates New Politician-Defined Benefits

If the bill passes, beginning in 2028, politicians would create, control, and define new, one-size-fits-all dental benefits for traditional Medicare. Medicare would cover preventive and screening services—defined as oral exams, cleanings, X-rays, and fluoride treatments—and "basic and major" treatments such as extractions, restorations, bridges, crowns, root canals, and periodontal treatments.

For preventive services, Medicare would pay 80% of the allowed charges, with beneficiaries responsible for paying the other 20%. For "basic and major" treatments, Medicare would initially pay 10% of the costs, with that share increasing to 50% in 2032 and subsequent years. Enrollees would be responsible for the rest.

It Threatens Seniors' Existing Dental Benefits

The benefits that Democrats want to add to Medicare are inferior to what is already offered to seniors through the privately-run Medicare Advantage. Seniors can choose to opt into Medicare Advantage, a program in which private plans—not government politicians—create benefits based on what their enrollees demand.

Today, 27.1 million seniors have chosen to get their Medicare coverage through private Medicare Advantage plans. The vast majority—98% (26.6 million)—are…
Edmund F. Haislmaier
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