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Casey Urges Colleagues to Pass Bill to Expand Medicare Coverage to Include Dental, Hearing and Vision Care

Witness from Lancaster County Testifies on Importance of Programs and Resources That Promote Healthy Aging for Seniors

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging, held a hearing entitled “Promoting Healthy Aging: Living Your Best Life Long Into Your Golden Years.” During the hearing, Senator Casey highlighted his legislation, the Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Vision and Hearing Benefit Act, which would ensure that Medicare includes dental, vision and hearing services in their basic coverage. This bill would provide states with an increased federal match in Medicaid funding to provide this care and would ensure standard coverage for all Medicare beneficiaries.

“Federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Older Americans Act have made healthy aging a reality for millions of Americans,” said Senator Casey. “However, Medicare is not required to cover dental, hearing or vision services. I have heard story after story of seniors struggling to afford these basic benefits. This is why I introduced the Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Vision and Hearing Benefits Act, to expand Medicare and Medicaid coverage for these services for all Medicare beneficiaries. Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our aging loved ones receive the critical health care services they need to lead the most active and healthy lifestyle as possible.”

Medicare provides health care coverage to more than 2.7 million Pennsylvanians. However, they are not guaranteed a standard dental, hearing or vision benefit. Without coverage for these services, necessary medical care is out of reach for many and can lead individuals to experience a decline in their health. An individual that is unable to receive necessary dental care is more likely to lose their teeth and have difficulty eating nutritious foods, which can lead to obesity and diabetes. An eye exam can lead to early detection of hypertension and high cholesterol. And, hearing loss can result in a greater likelihood of mental health issues, dementia and social isolation.

Brian Long, of West Hempfield Township, Pennsylvania, testified at the hearing about his experiences as the Lead Coordinator of the Pennsylvania Link to Aging and Mobility Resources for Berks, Lancaster and Lebanon, where he helps seniors, caregivers, veterans and people with disabilities locate services and supports in their community. Brian also serves as a Volunteer Representative for the Southcentral Regional Council on Aging, where he advocates for and advises the Pennsylvania Department of Aging on delivery of services for older adults. During the hearing, Brian discussed the importance of all seniors having affordable dental, vision and hearing services, “I can only do so much from where I work, but there are changes that can be made at the federal level to help. I know that Senator Casey has introduced legislation that would expand Medicare and Medicaid coverage to include dental, hearing and vision care. This is a must-do. There is no reason to delay. With the growing baby boomer population, these issues are going to become more and more prevalent.”

Read the bill one pager here.