Among the changes coming if the Democrats succeed in their $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill would be the inclusion of dental, vision, and hearing coverage through Medicare, possibly in 3 – 5 years due to implementation challenges, and with suggestions of a voucher/cash payout in the meantime. There is not yet an official cost estimate as the details are still being negotiated, but a similar proposal in 2019 would have cost $358 billion over 10 years.
At the same time, late last month, the latest Trustees’ Report for Medicare determined that the Medicare Part A Trust Fund will be exhausted in the year 2026, which, if you do the math, is a mere five years from now. At that point, Medicare would have to cut reimbursement rates for doctors by 9%, increasing to 20% in 2045, or even more if the report’s assumptions don’t pan out.
How will the new dental benefits — assuming they remain in the bill — affect Medicare Part A and its trust fund? Strictly speaking, not at all. The new benefits would be a part of Part B of the program, that is, doctors’ charges, rather than Part A, which covers hospital charges. In one respect, it would be its own benefit structure entirely, since, unlike “regular Part B” Medicare, the proposal would have the federal government pay 100% of the benefit’s costs, rather than requiring participants to pay a 25% cost-share premium. It would, in a way, become Medicare Part E.
Author(s): Elizabeth Bauer
Publication Date: 20 Sept 2021
Publication Site: Forbes