More than 55 million older adults access healthcare services through Medicare, but they are limited when it comes to accessing oral healthcare. Original Medicare does not cover routine preventive or restorative services such as screenings, exams, cleanings, fillings, or extractions.
The results of a series of focus groups of adults aged 50 years and older, however, show that an increasing number of older adults understand the link between oral health and overall health. And despite cost concerns, virtually all agreed that dental coverage was the top priority over hearing, vision, or long-term care.
Oral Health America (OHA) and the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI) commissioned Wakefield Research to conduct the focus groups to understand views and attitudes toward adding a dental benefit to Medicare. According to the groups, 93% of those surveyed would like to see dental coverage included as a Medicare benefit.
Opinions varied when these adults were asked what that benefit should look like and which tradeoffs would be acceptable to achieve advantages in other areas, though. Should coverage be limited to preventive care only, for instance, or should more extensive restorative care be included too?
According to the survey, 48% believe they should be receiving the highest level of treatment because they have paid into the system for many years. Still, 52% realize that as a government program, Medicare covers many people, so treatments must be cost-effective.
The OHA and HDI note that adults in this age bracket understand the importance of maintaining good oral health and the costs associated with it. They also have a sophisticated understanding of the tradeoffs involved in providing comprehensive care because their own health, care, and finances are directly impacted.