Congress has passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Dental Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2016, which will continue the current veteran dental insurance pilot program established by legislation authored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) in 2010. It also will expand eligibility to all veterans who currently don’t receive dental benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill has been presented to President Obama.
“Making sure veterans have dental care is the right thing to do,” said Burr, author of the new bill. “The veterans’ dental insurance pilot program has a track record of success, and it is time to open it up to all veterans. Medical professionals have long known that proper dental care is linked to better overall health. I am pleased the Senate has recognized the value of this dental benefit for veterans and has passed my bill.”
The VA only provides full dental care to a few select classes of veterans: 100% disabled veterans, former prisoners of war, and veterans who have a service-connected dental disability or condition. As a result, most veterans do not have access to dental care through the VA.
Established in 2014, the pilot program gave veterans access to care for 3 years. It is operated through contracts with Delta Dental and Metlife, and veterans pay low premiums. For example, in Raleigh, NC, the premium is $13.88 per month for a single veteran who chooses the standard plan. Premiums cover the program’s expenses, so there is no burden on taxpayers other than nominal administrative costs.
“This program has proven to be successful in helping to ensure that nearly 100,000 veterans who don’t qualify for dental care through the VA can get high-quality dental insurance plans that they can afford, and signing this bill into law will ensure that all veterans have that same opportunity,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Without the new bill, though, the program will expire and participants will lose these benefits. According to Burr, the veterans, their survivors, and their dependents who now participate in the program have given it high marks for access to care and quality. The new bill will make the pilot program permanent. Veterans who receive their dental care from the VA will continue to receive their care through the VA.