Legislative Update: September 2018

Legislative Update: September 2018

Better Preventive Dental, Vision, Hearing Care Could Save Money for Medicare

By Jessie Gibbons, Legislative Director

Millions of older Americans are afflicted with age-related hearing loss, low vision, and poor oral health.  Yet, under current law, Medicare is prohibited from covering most hearing, vision, and dental services.  The Senior Citizens League has heard from countless retirees living on fixed incomes who cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for costly care and assistive technologies like eyeglasses or hearing aids.

When left untreated, these conditions often cause serious health complications and injuries.  But when treated successfully, the result is improved overall health and lower costs for Medicare and patients.  For example, Mary J. who lives near Charlottesville, Virginia recently told us she suffered for years with severe chronic pulmonary and gastric infections.  After periodontitis was discovered and treated with oral surgery last year, her chronic cough and inflammatory symptoms cleared up completely.  Since then, Mary has successfully gone without inhalers and frequent visits to her primary care physician, gastroenterologist, and pulmonologist, saving Medicare thousands of dollars.

The Senior Citizens League believes it is essential for older Americans to receive the primary and preventive care that is needed to ensure good health in retirement.  In a recent poll conducted by The Senior Citizens League, 79% of respondents said they would like to see Medicare coverage expanded to include hearing, vision, and dental services.  Only 9% said Medicare coverage should remain unchanged, while 14% said they would like to see private Medicare Advantage plans – which sometimes cover more of these services – better promoted.

Based on the result of this poll, The Senior Citizens League has endorsed legislation called the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act (H.R. 508), a bill introduced by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and 131 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.  If adopted, H.R. 508 would expand Medicare coverage to include essential hearing, vision, and dental services.

In a letter of support to Representative Roybal-Allard, Art Cooper – Chairman of The Senior Citizens League’s Board of Trustees – wrote: “Our supporters nationwide question why the Medicare program has not yet been expanded to include coverage of essential hearing, vision, and dental services, which many employers provide during working years.  As such, The Senior Citizens League lends its enthusiastic support to the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act, a bill that we believe would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security seniors have earned and deserve.”

In the months ahead, The Senior Citizens League will continue to advocate tirelessly for the bipartisan Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act, and we hope to see it signed into law before the 115th Congress comes to a close at the end of this year.  In the meantime, we encourage our supporters to contact their elected officials to request their support for H.R. 508.  For contact information, visit our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org.  There, you can also share your story with The Senior Citizens League and tell us how you would benefit from the passage of the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act.