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Congressional spending deal nears: Medicare dental benefit unlikely to be included

October 28, 2021 3370

The U.S. Congress is working to finalize the details of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, and the framework of a final deal is near.  

While the details of the negotiated agreement have not been made public or acted on by Congress, it appears unlikely that a Medicare dental benefit will be included in the final legislation. 

What has been happening in Congress the last few weeks? 

To date, Congressional negotiations have included adding a dental benefit, plus hearing and vision, to the Medicare program. These discussions had focused on the scope of coverage (e.g., prevention, emergency, possibly more), as well as the timing of implementation and the cost of this benefit expansion. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had made a Medicare dental benefit one of his top priorities, while members of the House favor the inclusion of hearing services. Moderates in the Senate, particularly Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), raised concerns with the cost of including a Medicare dental benefit in the package.   

Intense negotiations over the total cost of the package, how to pay for it and what it includes have brought the proposed 10-year investment down from $3.5 trillion to $1.85 trillion. As of Oct. 28, and according to the New York Times, there is a “$1.85 trillion effort [that will] spend heavily on climate change, child care and a wide range of other economic programs, paid for by an estimated $2 trillion in tax increases on corporations and high earners, though it was not immediately clear if it has the votes to pass.” 

Until Congress votes, there remains a possibility that the final agreement could change. Notably, an Oct. 28 Politico Pulse article stated, “And even if Democrats coalesce behind a framework of the bill by the end of the week, negotiators warned more changes to the health policy provisions could still follow.” 

If the current framework changes and Congress resumes negotiations on a Medicare dental benefit, CDA will actively work toward a benefit that works most optimally for patients and dentists. Read the CDA article published Sept. 20 for more background.

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