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There are three major areas of health care which Medicare does not cover, one of them is dental. As a result, many older adults do not regularly visit a dentist.

A survey taken by the Health Policy Institute of the American Dental Association (ADA), indicated that the major reason given by respondents for not visiting a dentist in the past year is cost. The second major reason is the lack of original teeth. The latter also implies a cost issue, as both dentures or implants are very expensive.

The same source notes that “the vast majority of Americans over 50 would like to see dental benefits included in Medicare” and another national survey cited an 86 percent positive response supporting the addition of dental care to those services covered by Medicare.

Another ADA survey showed that “96 percent of health care executives believe that the embedding of dental benefits in medical plans” will happen in the near future.

On a positive note, several bills have been introduced into Congress to spur coverage of dental care, but in this day of tight budgets passage represents a real challenge.

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Upon the resignation of out-going Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tom Price, President Trump nominated Alex Azar II to the post, a move which has sparked controversy.

The prime doubt as to Azar’s credentials is that he is an executive of a major pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, at a time when the issue of drug costs is subject to a great deal of scrutiny.

In commenting on this nomination, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) noted that his background alarms her because he “might not stand up to the pharmaceutical industry” or fight against the continual “increase in drug prices.” She continued, “I believe families in Washington State deserve a Health Secretary who will finally put patients ahead of politics” and announced that she will vote against his nomination.

However, in his statement to the Senate Finance Committee which was reviewing his nomination, Azar affirmed that “drug prices are too high,” that health care should be “more affordable, more available, and more tailored” to individual needs, and that Medicare should take the lead in changing the focus of the present health care system “from paying for procedures and sickness to paying for  health and outcomes.”

During the hearing, Azar was challenged by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on the issue of allowing Medicare to negotiate prices directly with drug manufacturers, a scenario not currently accepted by Medicare (although the Veterans Administration is permitted to do so),

Azar maintained that even with direct negotiations there would be no savings.

For more information, visit the Senate Finance Committee at


There are various estimates as to how many people are involved in caregiving in this country. Considering the number of people who have some type of major illness, it is difficult to provide exact figures. 

Just to take one example, it is estimated that there are around 5 million Alzheimer’s patients, and, based on a conservative number with three people providing care for each patient that comes to 15 million caregivers. 

As of 2013, family caregivers provided an estimated $470 billion in uncompensated long-term care. Not only has this figure increased over the past four years, but so has the number of patients who will require care. Every day 10,000 baby boomers hit the 65  year mark of whom 90 percent have one of more chronic conditions and the fastest growing segment of this population are those 85 and older who have multiple health problems.

Finally, bipartisan legislation has been passed and is due to be signed into law by the President to establish a national strategy to support family caregivers.

The law, known as RAISE, for Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage Family Caregivers Act directs the Secretary of the Department of the Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop procedures to assist family caregivers.

As Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), head of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, noted in applauding the passage of this legislation, “with the rapid growth of our aging population, it’s reasonable to say that many of us will end up either being a caregiver or needing one.”

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