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Proposed House Bills to Add Dental, Vision and Hearing Coverage to Medicare

Published Feb. 5, 2020

Medicare beneficiaries who wish to have dental, vision or hearing care coverage must turn to Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) that offer these benefits, because Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) typically doesn’t cover these services.

But some recent bills introduced in Congress could change that. 

Three bills, each proposing coverage for benefits not currently covered by Original Medicare, were introduced in October of 2019 and await a vote in the House. 

Original Medicare consists of Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. These are the government-sponsored parts of Medicare and do not include coverage for dental, vision or hearing.

Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies and include coverage for everything that Original Medicare covers, and many Medicare Advantage plans may include dental, vision and hearing benefits, as well as prescription drug coverage and other potential benefits not covered by Original Medicare.

House bills for Medicare hearing, dental and vision coverage

Each of the three bills introduced in October, 2019 included a proposal to add coverage of one of the aforementioned benefits to Original Medicare. 

  1. H.R. 4650 would add preventive and screening dental services to Original Medicare, including exams and cleanings. It would also cover tooth restorations, extractions, bridges, crowns, root canals, implants and dentures. 

  2. H.R. 4665 would add Medicare coverage of routine eye exams along with benefits for eye glasses and contact lenses.

  3. H.R. 4618 would add Medicare coverage for hearing exams and hearing aids.

According to the bills, all three types of benefits would be added to Medicare Part B, which is the part of Original Medicare that covers outpatient care.

A fourth bill, H.R. 3, would allow Medicare to negotiate with drug makers, cap out-of-pocket spending and expand the Medicare low-income subsidy program for prescription drug costs.

Potential effects on Medicare costs

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not released an estimate on how the proposed bills might impact the federal Medicare budget. 

Any coverage added to Original Medicare would likely affect Medicare premiums. Most enrollees do not pay a premium for Medicare Part A, as long as they have accumulated enough years of working and paying Medicare taxes.

Part B (which is optional) comes with a standard premium of $144.60 per month in 2020 (with some higher income-earners paying higher premiums). 

The average Medicare Advantage premium was around $29 per month in 2019.

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