July 22, 2016 -- A bill to provide dental insurance for U.S. military veterans and their eligible family members was sent on July 19 to President Barack Obama for signing after being approved by the U.S. Senate on July 13 and the U.S. House of Representatives on July 14. It will allow veterans enrolled in a health insurance plan through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to buy dental insurance at reduced rates through MetLife or Delta Dental.
The VA Dental Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2016, S. 3055, continues the current veteran dental insurance pilot program that was established by legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) in 2010. This bill expands eligibility for the program to all veterans who do not currently receive dental benefits from the VA.
"We're supportive of all efforts to extend dental coverage to veterans, and reauthorizing this program certainly would do that," ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays, DDS, a third-generation Navy veteran, told DrBicuspid.com. "Anything that deals with the military and veterans is very important to me."
The three-year pilot program was due to expire at the end of 2016.
"Making sure veterans have dental care is the right thing to do," Burr said in a statement. "The veterans' dental insurance pilot program has a track record of success, and it is time to open it up to all veterans. Medical professionals have long known that proper dental care is linked to better overall health."
Currently, almost 100,000 veterans and eligible dependents have purchased plans through the program, and a survey conducted by the VA found that the majority of participants said they are satisfied with the program and will recommend it to other veterans, according to U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
"All veterans deserve access to high-quality, comprehensive healthcare -- including oral healthcare," Rice said in a statement.
Veterans pay for their insurance plans out of pocket at discounted rates, so the program will not cost taxpayers other than administrative costs. Veterans who are eligible to receive dental care directly from the VA will not be affected by this program and will continue to receive their care through the VA.
Currently, veterans are only eligible for dental benefits under one of the following circumstances: Their dental needs result from their military service, their dental needs affect a covered medical condition, they are disabled or unemployable because of their service, or they are homeless or in rehabilitation.