KFF Outlines Five Solutions for Improving Medicare Dental Coverage

Dentistry Today


Medicare does not cover routine dental care, and two-thirds of the 60 million people on Medicare have no dental coverage at all, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). With limited or no dental coverage, some patients incur high out-of-pocket costs while others forgo needed care because they can’t afford it, KFF adds.

KFF is now proposing five potential ways to make oral healthcare and affordable for this population, including two approaches that would add a new dental benefit under Medicare and others that would offer more limited help to people on Medicare and have less of an impact on the federal budget. The five options include: 

  • Adding a dental benefit to Medicare Part B
  • Creating a voluntary dental benefit under a new part of Medicare
  • Permitting greater access to medically necessary dental services under Medicare
  • Testing models for dental coverage
  • Offering dental discount cards

In its brief, KFF reviews the limits of dental coverage permitted under current Medicare law and describes each policy option with an analysis of likely implications for key stakeholders including Medicare beneficiaries, taxpayers, insurers, and dental professionals. It also examines tradeoffs for each option including increases in federal spending.

The brief, Policy Options for Improving Dental Coverage for People on Medicare, is intended to inform policy discussions focused on improving oral healthcare and coverage for the Medicare population.

A previous brief, Drilling Down on Dental Coverage and Costs for Medicare Beneficiaries, reviews the state of oral health for people on Medicare, describes the consequences of forgoing dental care, and examines current sources of dental insurance, use of dental services, and beneficiaries’ out of pocket spending.

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