Organizing for Comprehensive Oral Health Care

As part of the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s commitment to improving oral health for older people and people with disabilities, Center attorneys recently attended a DentaQuest convening in Cambridge, Massachusetts aimed at unifying partners in this common mission. The convening focused on leadership strategies, shared network goals and collaborative work in social justice.  The Center’s work of developing a comprehensive oral health benefit in Medicare is a crucial component of this larger mission.  The Center for Medicare Advocacy is pleased to be working with the DentaQuest Foundation to advance their goal of adding a comprehensive oral health benefit to Medicare.

DentaQuest is growing a national network around the concept of oral health as a social justice issue, with the mission of achieving oral health for all by 2020. The Center is pleased to join this network. The Center will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with other DentaQuest “change agents” on DentaQuest’s Oral Health 2020 mission, particularly on the goal of including an adult dental benefit in publicly funded health coverage. DentaQuest’s Oral Health 2020 “is a multi-year effort to strengthen and unify the network, build upon current initiative strategies, and expand impact. The time is right to bring about lasting systems change through the power of collective action. [DentaQuest is] engaging grantees and partners around a set of bold, shared goals with specific targets to be achieved by 2020.”

The Center’s ongoing work will focus on the urgent need for medically essential oral health coverage, while expanding the broader effort to push for comprehensive Medicare coverage for oral health care, including preventive services. We will continue partnering with DentaQuest, Retirement Research Foundation, Oral Health America, and other medical and advocacy partners to move this issue forward.

Research demonstrates that oral health disparities exist for many racial and ethnic groups, by socioeconomic status, gender, age and geographic location. This underscores the need to approach oral health disparities as a component of social justice. DentaQuest supports an approach to policy changes in oral health that respond to the social determinants of health. DentaQuest recognizes that, in order to make strides in health equity, it is essential to address the disparities that are at the root of the problem.

The Center is currently working to ensure beneficiaries who need non-routine, medically essential oral health care can obtain Medicare coverage for this essential care. Denying Medicare coverage to people for medically essential care, simply because it involves the mouth or teeth, is a misapplication of current law. It causes harm to older and disabled people, impeding their access to other critical health care and even leading to preventable deaths. The Center is eager to continue working on this crucial component of overall health.

While the Center will continue longstanding work to ensure Medicare coverage of medically essential oral health needs, we are also eager to help lead major national initiatives to develop a robust oral health benefit in Medicare that includes preventive care.

More information on DentaQuest is available at http://dentaquestfoundation.org/oh2020

June 29, 2016 – K. Kertesz