New Medicare dental benefits give Democrats a small reason to smile

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Democrats won a consolation prize this week when Medicare administrators added limited dental benefits to next year’s coverage, nodding to a priority that got axed in negotiations over the Inflation Reduction Act.

Why it matters: The regulatory change could save some seniors money on dental care in specific situations, but leaves those enrolled in traditional fee-for-service Medicare without coverage in most circumstances.

Driving the news: A payment rule released by CMS this week clarified that Medicare will cover some dental services, but only in those situations when dental care is linked to a covered medical procedure, such as before an organ transplant.

The big picture: The idea of beefing up Medicare benefits to include dental, vision and/or hearing coverage was very much in play when Democrats began to craft the health care portions of their reconciliation bill last year.

  • But the cost of such coverage expansions led negotiators to drop the idea during the dealmaking and political machinations that followed.

The bottom line: The new policy “does not go nearly as far as having a dental benefit in traditional Medicare,” said KFF’s Meredith Freed.

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