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Dental tourism, because Medicare doesn’t cover for dental treatment

C. Everett Koop, known for his tenure as U.S. surgeon general during the Reagan administration, was renowned for his pediatric surgery and attention to the HIV-AIDS crisis. He’d often say: “You are not healthy without good oral health.” He emphasized the significance of oral health, stating that it’s integral to overall health. However, despite his efforts, many Americans still lack basic dental care due to many reasons including the lack of dental coverage.

Traditional Medicare doesn’t cover dental services for most beneficiaries, leaving around 24 million seniors without assistance for dental expenses. Dental care is a must and fortunately options like traveling abroad for dental care has become popular and is affordable. Many have found an amazing niche of top quality dental care at reasonable prices in clinics like Prisma Dental in Costa Rica.

Medical exceptions

When Medicare was established in 1965, dental services were largely excluded due to cost concerns and opposition from dental associations. Initially, the Biden administration considered including comprehensive dental coverage in the Build Back Better legislation, but it faced challenges in Congress and was ultimately removed from the bill passed by the House in 2021. This was partly due to cost worries and resistance from dental groups regarding reimbursement rates.

In 2022, after the broader legislative package was blocked in the Senate, limited dental coverage for medically necessary treatments was added for Medicare beneficiaries. However, the eligibility criteria are narrow, mainly covering cases like organ transplant patients or those undergoing cancer treatments involving jaw radiation.

Despite these changes, there’s a belief that dental care is essential for everyone, particularly older individuals.

Medicare coverage

Many employed Americans have limited dental coverage, often capped at around $1,000 annually, which they lose upon retirement. Recognizing the critical link between oral health and overall well-being, there’s a call for Medicare to include basic dental services. In the US $1,000 will not cover extensive dental treatment, maybe a single crown, filling or cleaning but not root canals, dental implants or even removable dentures.

Oral health is vital for essential functions like eating and speaking, as well as for psychological well-being. Untreated dental issues can lead to infections, hospitalizations, and even death, yet access to routine dental care is lacking for many Americans. Disparities exist, with wealthy Medicare recipients receiving more dental care than those with low incomes, highlighting the need for equitable access to dental services for all seniors.

In 2016, only a small fraction of traditional Medicare beneficiaries had purchased standalone dental plans, while a majority of Medicare Advantage enrollees had some dental benefits, though coverage varied widely. The absence of dental coverage in Medicare has significant financial implications, with 1 in 5 beneficiaries spending at least $1,000 annually on dental care, a burden particularly felt by those with limited disposable income.

A decent alternative to Medicare

Dental tourism can benefit Americans with limited coverage of dental services through Medicare by providing access to more affordable dental care in other countries. Many countries offer high-quality dental services at significantly lower costs compared to the United States. By traveling abroad for dental treatment, Americans can save money on procedures such as implants, crowns, and other extensive dental work.

Additionally, dental tourism allows patients to access treatments that may not be covered by their Medicare plans or that have high out-of-pocket costs. This can include cosmetic procedures or specialized treatments that are not deemed medically necessary under Medicare guidelines.

Prisma Dental is a well-established dental clinic in Costa Rica, offering local and international patients all dental treatments are reasonable prices. From basic dental procedures to more complex and extensive dental work like full mouth restorations, All-on-6 and dental implants. A $1,000 in dental tourism treatment will cover more dental treatment than 3 years of basic Medicare dental coverage with the advantage of being treatment in a high-end, top quality dental clinic.

Dr. Koop’s emphasis on the importance of oral health appears prescient, as it’s evident that good oral health is integral to overall well-being. Adding basic dental benefits to Medicare could improve the quality of life for many older Americans and potentially decrease overall healthcare costs. It’ll be years or maybe decades until legislative changes are done to improve oral health concern. Fortunately, there’s alternatives like Prisma Dental for Americans dental care overseas.

For more information on Prisma Dental Clinic and their team of doctors, visit their website prismadental.com

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