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Democrats Hope To Beef Up Medicare With Dental, Vision And Hearing Benefits

Joe Namath's commercial touting Medicare Advantage plans has stirred debate over the lack of coverage for services like dental, vision, and hearing care in traditional Medicare. Democratic lawmakers are pushing to expand Medicare to include these benefits, but it raises questions about why such expansions have been rare in the program's 56-year history. Click here for article.

  • Historical Context: Since its inception in 1965, Medicare has seen few benefit expansions. While some preventive care was added in the 1980s and '90s, the most significant addition was prescription drug coverage in 2003, separated from the traditional benefit package.

  • Challenges and Politics: Efforts to expand Medicare have faced hurdles, including cost concerns and political opposition. For instance, the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 was repealed due to seniors' backlash against added costs.

  • Cost and Politics: Medicare's funding structure and concerns about fiscal responsibility have often restrained benefit expansions. Lawmakers have been more focused on avoiding trust fund shortfalls than on expanding benefits.

  • Current Proposals: Democratic lawmakers are now pushing to add dental, vision, and hearing benefits to Medicare. While these services are less expensive than others, such as long-term custodial care, politics plays a significant role in their prioritization, especially as part of broader policy proposals like lowering the eligibility age for Medicare.

  • Potential Impact: While there's momentum for adding these benefits, challenges remain. The cost estimate for including dental, vision, and hearing benefits is substantial, but this is the closest such benefits have come to enactment in Medicare's history.

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