A new poll has found broad national support for adding dental coverage to Medicare along with indications a candidate’s stance on the issue could sway votes nationally and in the upcoming Iowa presidential caucus.
The Families USA/YouGov Poll found that seven out of 10 likely voters support adding oral health coverage to Medicare. Majority support for adding the benefit was found among Democrats and Republicans and across every age group, race, ethnicity, gender, region, and ideology.
The poll was fielded nationally and in Iowa in August and found even higher support among Iowa Democrats. In fact, eight in 10 Iowa Democrats favor adding a dental benefit to Medicare, and two-thirds say they would be more likely to support a candidate who shares that position.
The Oral Health for All campaign notes that 11 Democratic candidates support adding dental coverage to Medicare: Corey Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Kristen Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Wayne Messam, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang.
According to the poll, 64% of Democrats nationally said they would be more likely to support a candidate who pledged to add dental benefits to Medicare. The number was higher, 70%, among voters who favor Medicare for all. Nationally, 91% of Democrats agreed that dental benefits should be included in any healthcare system implemented.
“People are really concerned about oral health. It’s a nonpartisan issue that people support regardless of political party,” said Patrick Willard, senior director of state and national strategic partnerships at Families USA.
“They know their oral health is critical to their overall health, and it’s like the government is saying, ‘we don’t think you have teeth.’ Well, most Americans now keep their teeth well into old age, and they need access to dental coverage in order to take care of them,” said Willard.
Support for adding dental coverage is consistent across age groups, with 66% among those age 18 to 29, 70% of those age 30 to 44, 69% among those 45 to 64, and 74% among those over 65. Self-identified liberals were most likely to be supportive, but the change was also supported by 75% of moderates and 56% of conservatives.
Plus, 79% said they would be willing to pay for dental coverage, though 51% said that would depend on the cost.
Democrats in Iowa were even more supportive, with 82% favoring the change. Also, 37% of Iowa Democrats ranked dental coverage as the missing Medicare benefit most important to them personally, more than vision care, nursing home care, hearing aids, cosmetic surgery, or fitness programs. Further, 66% said they would be more likely to support a candidate who pledges support for Medicare dental.
Nationally and in Iowa, 71% of voters say healthcare is one of their top five issues. Nationally, 80% of likely voters agree that access to healthcare should include access to dental care. Two-thirds of Republicans and 91% of Democrats agreed with that statement.
However, 59% of voters either incorrectly believed Medicare offers dental benefits or were not sure. Traditional Medicare does not cover dental benefits, and Medicare does not require its Medicare Advantage managed care plans to offer it, though some do as an enticement to enrollees.
The Families USA/YouGov Poll was conducted from August 8 through August 15 among a sample of 1,000 likely voters nationwide with a +/–3% margin of error. The Iowa poll was conducted from August 9 to August 19 among a sample of 500 likely Democrat voters with a +/–4% margin of error.
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