Today, the US government works hard to provide its citizens with good living conditions and appropriate services. As a result, many amendments and policies have already been developed and approved. At the same time, specific issues should be discussed and investigated. The improvement of health care is an obligation for the government and facilities, and the level of cooperation determines the level of quality. In this paper, the bill “House Joint Memorial 4014” will be analyzed in terms of its central issue, dental services for the elderly, background, and alternatives available for the Washington population.
More than ten representatives and sponsors support the idea to make adjustments to the existing Medicare platform for the citizens of Washington. Its main statement is the necessity to expand Medicare coverage and promote the delivery of dental services for underserved populations (seniors) who live in Washington. The problem is that today many older adults are at risk of tooth decay and multiple oral diseases, and Medicare provides only 45% of low-income individuals with dental insurance (“House joint memorial 4014,” 2020). The cost necessary for treating oral diseases is high, and not all seniors allow such dental services, resulting in the development of health complications and the need for urgent help.
Context and Background
The bill under analysis helps the government identify the main concepts of dental care critical for seniors. The supporters of the bill introduce statistical data, describe major health conditions, and share their personal opinions to expand Medicare insurance for the Washington population. Their goal is to think about the conditions under which the citizens of Washington can achieve their health goals and improve their well-being. The main points of the policy are (“House joint memorial 4014,” 2020):
- Seniors do not have access to dental care because of too high costs;
- 28% of Washington seniors report tooth loss;
- Racial inequality exists in dental care;
- Oral health provoke nutritional and heart problems that are not always easy to treat;
- Medical expenses should be reduced for seniors in terms of obligatory dental care.
Improving the quality of life among senior Americans is one of the top priorities for the government. According to Cohn et al. (as cited in Slavkin, 2017), about 10,000 people turn 65 every day. The number of the elderly population continues to grow and could reach nearly 100 million by 2050 (Slavkin, 2017). Older adults have individual health needs: some are complex, and some are preventable (Chávez et al., 2018). The conditions of teeth may be predetermined by such factors as poverty, education, ethnicity, and smoking habits (Slavkin, 2017). Although the American Dental Association representatives create specific services for people with diabetes and coronary diseases to reduce medical costs on oral health care, these contributions are not enough.
Therefore, the purpose of the policy is to treat dental diseases and prevent the growth of new illnesses. The authors focus on the impact of oral health on nutritious diets, heart diseases, and the importance of regular checkups to prove the chosen position (“House joint memorial 4041,” 2020). If Medicaid offers optional coverage for dental procedures, Medicare does not cover these services at all (Kelly et al., 2017). Seniors should rely on governmental support to protect their health and dental health in particular.
During the last several years, legal attempts were made to change the situation. The Action for Dental Health Act was signed to prevent dental diseases and control dental emergencies to reduce high-cost services (Gupta et al., 2019). Practitioners are also obliged to be aware of the laws and regulations to understand their patients’ needs and follow the Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct (Chávez et al., 2018). Dental healthcare workers have to identify the signs of oral diseases, educate patients about oral care and caries prevention, and explain treatment options.
Policy Options or Alternatives
The major option of the policy is to increase dental care access opportunities for seniors. In addition to the possibility for the people of color to get dental services, this Medicare improvement will create a benefit for Washington seniors to have dental care coverage under the federal program (“House Joint Memorial 4014,” 2020). There are also economic benefits as this bill reduces the cost barrier. Poor oral health is linked to inflammation (endocarditis or brain abscesses), which leads to the development of chronic degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia, or cancer, increasing economic health costs (Slavkin, 2017). As soon as people are checked for dental problems, they can predict the progress of health infection-related difficulties.
The negative aspects of the policy are the necessity for dental clinics to change their working standards and the possibility to offer free care to people older than 65. Besides, specific interventions are necessary to improve the work of the Medicare program. In the majority of cases, the improvement of one sphere requires additional funding and attention that are taken from another area. The same mechanism may occur with the bill’s adoption, and the expansion of dental services could lead to the reduction of other services. Finally, the policy does not specify the age categories of potential patients. It is said that Washington seniors should benefit from Medicare dental care insurance, but no clarifications about the services and the condition of patients who may apply to them are given.
Timeframe and Political Perspectives
No timelines are identified within the policy, but one month is usually enough to legalize the idea, and one month is necessary for Medicare to introduce a new requirement for its clients. In their turn, seniors are able to subscribe for this type of insurance any time they want (preferably, within the next year). To promote the bill, it is important to invite experienced political figures, analyze the idea, and define its strong and weak points. Regarding the text of the policy, the main decision-makers are Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States, the President of the Senate, and the representatives of the Senate and Congress. There is no credible information about the political vote and the current placement of the policy.
In general, the introduction of “House Joint Memorial 4014” is a good attempt to demonstrate governmental care and interest in the improvement of care for citizens. The inclusion of dental care with Medicare should help people manage their well being and understand their direct impact on health. Medicare insurance is one of the symbols of free and equal care for the American population. It is characterized by certain economic and social benefits because the current situation (uninsured seniors, tooth loss, and impact of oral health on overall health) has to be rectified.
Chávez, E. M., Wong, L. M., Subar, P., Young, D. A., & Wong, A. (2018). Dental care for geriatric and special needs populations. Dental Clinics of North America, 62(2), 245–267.
Gupta, S., Hakim, M., Patel, D., Stow, L. C., Shin, K., Timothé, P., & Nalliah, R. P. (2019). Reaching vulnerable populations through portable and mobile dentistry – Current and future opportunities. Dentistry Journal, 7(3). Web.
House joint memorial 4041. (2020). Web.
Kelly, M. C., Caplan, D. J., Bern-Klug, M., Cowen, H. J., Cunningham-Ford, M. A., Marchini, L., & Momany, E. T. (2017). Preventive dental care among Medicaid-enrolled senior adults: From community to nursing facility residence. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 78(1), 86–92.
Slavkin, H. C. (2017). A national imperative: Oral health services in Medicare. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 148(5), 281-283. Web.