Levin Introduces Bill to Expand Medicare Benefits

Jun 29, 2017 Issues: Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Sander Levin (MI-09), Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, today introduced the Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act of 2017 [H.R. 3111]. The bill would repeal the statutory exclusion on coverage of important items and services and expand the Medicare benefit package to include dental, vision, and hearing care.

“Seniors are often unpleasantly surprised to find that their Medicare benefits do not include the overwhelming majority of dental, vision, and hearing care. The time has come to expand Medicare’s coverage to include these services that are so important to the overall health of seniors. This will improve the quality of their lives, while also reducing more serious and costly ailments,” said Rep. Levin.

The current gap in Medicare coverage has harmful consequences for older Americans.  Poor dental care is closely associated with systemic health problems, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Vision loss is the third leading chronic condition among older adults and is closely associated with clinical depression, injuries due to falls, and loss of cognitive function. Hearing loss is a socially isolating condition that impacts about two-thirds of older Americans, yet only about 30 percent of individuals who could benefit from a hearing aid actually utilize one.

The Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act [H.R. 3111] would close gaps in coverage that for decades have limited access to care for millions of Americans. It phases in an expansion of the Medicare benefit package to provide all beneficiaries with access to crucial items and services that will help improve their overall health and wellbeing. At its introduction, the bill is cosponsored by Ways and Means Ranking Member Neal, as well as Reps. Lewis, Blumenauer, Pascrell, Danny Davis, Higgins, Sewell, and Chu.

The full text of the bill is available here. A factsheet on the bill can be found here.