CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, a leading national organization focused on improving oral health for all, expressed disappointment in the reconciliation framework announced today that does not include a Medicare dental benefit, despite massive support for the program among the American people.
Strengthening Medicare by including dental coverage, as discussed over the last several months as a deal was being negotiated, would represent a giant step toward improving health equity, access, and outcomes for seniors and people with disabilities. The decision to leave this program out of the reconciliation bill will only exacerbate existing disparities and troubling trends:
According to the CDC, one in five adults aged 65 years or older have untreated tooth decay or have lost all their teeth and more than two in three older adults have gum disease.
In 2018, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost half of all Medicare beneficiaries did not have a dental visit, with higher rates among those who are Black (68%), Hispanic (61%), or have low incomes (73%).
Twenty percent of rural seniors have not seen a dentist in more than five years.
Poor oral health has a direct impact on overall health and is associated with increased risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, and Alzheimer’s.
A recent CareQuest Institute poll revealed that eight in 10 voters favored the inclusion of dental benefits in Medicare. CareQuest Institute and its long-standing partners have been fiercely advocating for the dental benefit inclusion, including the launch of a significant digital campaign in 16 key states and convening a coalition of health leaders in urging its passage.
CareQuest Institute for Oral Health CEO and President Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan issued the following statement:
“Today’s announcement is a huge disappointment to all those who care so deeply about creating a more equitable health system. By failing to include a Medicare dental benefit, Congress is leaving in place one of the greatest drivers of disparities in our health system and leaving millions of older Americans and people with disabilities without access to essential care.”
“Progress is never a straight line. We urge Congress to add critical dental benefits to Medicare as the package is finalized. CareQuest Institute will continue to fight until everyone has access to the health care they deserve, and we build a more equitable health system for all.”
About CareQuest Institute for Oral Health
CareQuest Institute for Oral Health® is a national nonprofit championing a more equitable future where every person can reach their full potential through excellent health. We do this through our work in grantmaking, research, health improvement programs, policy and advocacy, and education as well as our leadership in dental benefits, care delivery, and innovation advancements. We collaborate with thought leaders, health care providers, patients, and local, state, and federal stakeholders to accelerate oral health care transformation and create a system designed for everyone. To learn more, visit carequest.org.