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U.S. Rep wants Medicare to cover vision, hearing, dental

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Levin bill seeks to add vision, dental, hearing as part of Medicare

It may be audacious, given the current climate in Washington, but U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., has introduced a bill to expand Medicare.

Levin says Medicare should cover vision, dental and hearing problems, which affect many seniors. He says many people don't even realize these conditions are not covered for the elderly, who are the most likely to need treatment for them.

Levin says it's important to improve and expand health insurance in the U.S., not limit it.

"I mean health care should not essentially be tied into whether one is well off economically," says Levin.

Levin says he has not yet received the Congressional Budget Office score for the bill, so it doesn't including funding. But he says the expansion could be phased in over time to allow the federal budget time to adjust, and the benefits could be limited to keep the expansion affordable for taxpayers. 

There's no appetite in Washington for boosting federal benefits, so Levin's bill faces zero chance of getting a hearing. 

Meanwhile, Republicans persist in their efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act, which Levin notes reduced the level of uninsurance in Michigan from 12.4% in 2010 to 6.1% in just five years. 

The Congressional Budget Office estimates between 22 and 24 million people nationwide could lose insurance under the Republicans' bills.

A separate bill has also been proposed to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing the Affordable Care Act's mandatory insurance provision. 

The individual mandate is considered a crucial factor in the ACA's success, because it discourages young and healthy people from remaining uninsured until they become ill.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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