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Medicare Interactive
October 7, 2019


Currently, Medicare does not cover most dental services. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a non-partisan, non-profit focused on national health issues, recently released an issue brief discussing various options to increase access to dental coverage for people with Medicare. According to the brief, nearly two out of every three Medicare beneficiaries have no dental coverage, leading many to go without necessary care.

While some people with Medicare have dental benefits through other sources, access and coverage tends to be limited. Some may be eligible for Medicaid or may have coverage through a private plan. A minority of beneficiaries get access to coverage through Medicare Advantage (MA). For example, in 2016, about 10.2 million people with Medicare had access to some MA dental coverage, though these MA benefits are often quite narrow in scope and may not cover needed services like fillings, crowns, implants and dentures. To access that care, beneficiaries would be forced to pay out of pocket.

The KFF issue brief highlights five policy options that could extend Medicare coverage of oral health care by:

  1. adding a dental benefit to Medicare Part B,
  2. creating a voluntary dental benefit under a new part of Medicare,
  3. permitting greater access to medically necessary dental services under Medicare,
  4. testing models for dental coverage, and
  5. offering dental discount cards. The brief also discusses the policy considerations and implications for each approach.

Medicare Rights considers oral health a priority and continues to advocate for increased coverage of this important care. Our advocacy primarily focuses on two of the options the KFF brief highlights: permitting greater access to medically necessary dental services and ultimately adding a dental benefit to Medicare Part B.

Currently, Medicare covers only a handful of medically necessary dental services, despite the Medicare statute permitting more extensive coverage. “Medically necessary dental care” means care that a person may need for oral health issues that might complicate or stand in the way of receiving other care. For example, someone with an untreated oral infection may not be able to have a life-saving organ transplant or heart surgery. Lack of medically necessary dental care harms patients and can also increase Medicare’s costs for treating their illnesses. Medicare has the option to cover more oral health care in these situations, but has not chosen to do so. We urge the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency that oversees the Medicare program, to increase this coverage.

Ultimately, our focus is a comprehensive dental benefit within Medicare Part B. Such a benefit would do more to ensure that all Medicare beneficiaries have access to oral health care when they need it, including preventive care, appropriate treatment, and denture coverage. The distinction between oral health and other bodily systems should be eliminated to improve the overall health of older adults and people with disabilities.

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Life Settlement Advisors
June 11, 2019


In telemedicine, or telehealth, a patient meets with a doctor or specialist using a device like a tablet, computer, or even a smartphone. The idea of talking to a doctor through a screen seems a little odd to many patients. After all, without being in the room with you, can someone really diagnose your issue and resolve your concerns? You might be surprised to learn that a 2016 survey by the National Institute of Health revealed 94-99% of patients were “very satisfied” with their telehealth experience. In fact, one-third of those people said they preferred telehealth to an in-person doctor visit. Even with that fact in mind, here’s some more information you might like to know before you take advantage of this exciting innovation.

How Does Telemedicine Work?

The doctor on the other side of the screen is provided with all the patient’s information in advance, including recent test results and imaging or x-rays. If the patient goes to an office for the appointment, the doctor may even be able to see your vitals like blood pressure in real-time. The doctor asks questions and makes a diagnosis just like during an in-person appointment. For patients in rural areas or those with unique conditions, this service allows them to connect with the best possible medical talent and get world-class treatment from anywhere.

What Gets Treated by Telemedicine?

Telemedicine isn’t just useful for those living in rural areas. Those who need treatment on weekends, holidays, or at off hours can use this service to visit with a doctor, even from home. One study found that telemedicine could have replaced 37% of doctor’s visits for residents of senior living communities, including 27% of emergency room visits. Here are just a few examples of issues that can be effectively treated by telemedicine:

  • Inquiries about home treatment for flu, colds, and other minor illnesses
  • Diagnosis of common problems like back pain, sore throat, or digestive issues
  • Faster refill of short-term prescriptions
  • Post-surgery checkups
  • Other situations where it is easier for the patient not to leave the house

Of course, everyone’s medical history is different. You should consult with your current doctor about telemedicine options before downloading any apps.

Can I Refuse Telemedicine?

The short answer is, of course you can. Your medical treatment is always your choice. However, 64% of patients have indicated in surveys they would be open to this option if they understood more. If you have concerns about the privacy of your data, or if the appointment will be covered by insurance, you can resolve those with your care provider. Right now, Medicare does have a limited telemedicine coverage policy. Twenty-six states have also enacted laws requiring insurance companies to pay for telemedicine the same as a regular doctor’s visit.

Will Telemedicine Save Me Money?

Telemedicine has been shown to save money for both patients and doctors. One 2018 study found that using telemedicine technology saves the average patient $100 per visit. When you’re preventing a visit to the emergency room, the savings could be even higher. Since healthcare spending is predicted to grow 5.8% per year every year until 2025, those dollars could add up. That’s especially true for those on a fixed retirement income and Social Security.

Telemedicine is one way that more individuals can receive access to better healthcare on demand. While it may seem like a strange practice at first, those who have tried it say the benefits are worth the change in habit. The cost savings are also appealing, especially for those with chronic conditions who need lots of care. If you’re struggling to cover costs of care, did you know you can sell all or part of a life insurance policy, even term insurance? A life settlement can be a great benefit to those with unneeded life insurance policies that are also looking to add cash to their account balances.

Case Study:  John and Linda both retired last spring.Their only daughter lives in Northern Michigan, a five-hour road trip one way. Linda wanted to move to Northern Michigan, so they could be closer to their grandchildren. John discovered that he could sell his life insurance policy and use the proceeds for a down payment on their new home in Northern Michigan. John sold his policy and used the funds to pay off a few medical bills and buy that home in Michigan.

Leo LaGrotte