Press Releases

Rep. Roybal-Allard Celebrates Key Win in Her Fight to Let Medicare Cover Vision, Hearing, and Dental Care

House passes H.R. 3, which includes principles of Rep. Roybal-Allard’s Seniors Have Eyes, Ears and Teeth Act plan to allow Medicare to cover routine vision, hearing, and dental care; H.R. 3 also helps bring down the cost of prescription drugs and level the playing field for American patients who are paying more for their medicines than patients in other countries

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Washington, December 12, 2019 | Ben Soskin ((202) 225-1766) | comments
Today, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), who has been a leader in the fight in Congress to let Medicare cover vision, hearing, and dental care as the author of the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears and Teeth Act (H.R. 576), celebrated the inclusion of principles of her bill in H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which passed the House of Representatives today.  In the congresswoman’s 40th District alone, if Medicare is expanded to cover these services, about 81% of the district’s beneficiaries (57,200 people) stand to gain from adding a dental benefit, about 47% of beneficiaries (33,400 people) stand to gain from adding a vision benefit, and about 72% of beneficiaries (50,900 people) stand to gain from adding a hearing benefit.

H.R. 3 will also help bring down the cost of prescription drugs and level the playing field for American patients who are paying more for their medicines than patients in other countries.  This bill gives Medicare the power to negotiate directly with drug companies, and the money the government saves will be reinvested into expanding Medicare’s benefits to include dental, vision, and hearing.  The lower prices negotiated by Medicare will be transparent so that private insurance companies can make the same prices available to their consumers.  H.R. 3 also creates a new $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries; assists innovation in the search for new cures and treatments; and helps combat the opioid crisis.

In a House speech (viewable here) before today’s vote, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard stated: “I am proud to be voting today for the passage of the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Act, a bill to lower health care costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for certain high-cost drugs.  I am even prouder that H.R. 3 will reinvest the savings from these drug negotiations into a transformational expansion of Medicare benefits, which includes routine vision, hearing, and dental care.  I have fought for years to include these critical services in my Seniors Have Eyes, Ears and Teeth Act, because they will prevent health care costs and suffering due to senior accidents, falls, cognitive impairments, oral cancer, and increased chronic conditions.  But most importantly, giving our older adults the gift of hearing, vision, and oral health would go a long way to helping them enjoy their golden years free from depression and social isolation. It is time to recognize that total health care for our seniors must include adequate access to vision, hearing, and dental services.”

Nationally, an estimated 11 million Medicare beneficiaries have trouble eating because of dental problems, but 30 percent of beneficiaries haven't seen a dentist in the last year.  An estimated 20.5 million Medicare beneficiaries have vision problems, yet 43 percent of beneficiaries hadn't received an eye examination during the previous year.  Half of adults 60 and older have clinically meaningful hearing loss, and an estimated 73.5 million are estimated to have hearing loss by 2060.  Cost is a key reason Medicare beneficiaries don't seek out dental, vision, or hearing services, with beneficiaries who use such services spending an average of hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket.

In California’s 40th District, there are 62,244 people enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan and 276,067 people enrolled in private health insurance – all of whom stand to benefit from H.R. 3.  People living with cancer, arthritis, asthma, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis are among those expected to experience significant savings as a result of H.R. 3:

Patients living with breast cancer: In 2019, an estimated 27,000 women in California will be diagnosed with breast cancer. H.R. 3 can lower the average total cost of the breast cancer medication Ibrance by 65%.
Patients living with leukemia: In 2019, an estimated 6,030 people in California will be diagnosed with leukemia. H.R. 3 can lower the average total cost of the leukemia medication Tasigna by 71%.
Patients living with prostate cancer: In 2019, an estimated 24,550 people in California will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. H.R. 3 can lower the average total cost of the prostate cancer medication Zytiga by 66%.
Patients with arthritis: 18.3% of California residents have arthritis, and H.R. 3 can lower their total costs on most arthritis drugs from about $40,000 to $10,000 per year.
Patients with asthma: About 7.9% of California residents live with asthma, and H.R. 3 can lower their total costs on most asthma drugs from about $1,400 to $270 per year.
Patients with HIV/AIDS: In 2015, 4,495 California residents were diagnosed with HIV, and H.R. 3 can lower their total costs on most HIV drugs from about $15,000 to $6,000 per year.
Patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS): One million people are living with MS in the United States, and H.R. 3 can lower their total costs on most MS drugs from about $40,000 to $13,000 per year.
Patients with Diabetes: 9.7% of California residents live with diabetes, and under H.R. 3, some commonly used insulins can cost as little as $400 per year.  H.R. 3 can lower the average total cost of the insulin NovoLOG Flexpen by 76% from about $19,800 to $4,800 per year.

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Tags: Health