[Congressional Record Volume 165, Number 8 (Tuesday, January 15, 2019)]
[Pages H551-H552]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from 
California (Ms. Roybal-Allard) for 5 minutes.
  Ms. ROYBAL-ALLARD. Madam Speaker, as we begin this new Congress, I am 
proud to introduce the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act, with 78 
of my colleagues. My bill would

[[Page H552]]

reverse a longstanding Medicare prohibition on critical health services 
for our seniors.
  Since its implementation in 1965, Medicare has excluded coverage for 
hearing aids and related audiology services, routine dental care, and 
routine eye exams and eyeglasses, despite the large number of older 
Americans who critically need these items and services.
  The Commonwealth Fund reports that, among all Medicare beneficiaries 
who needed a hearing aid, only 75 percent did not have one. Of those 
who had trouble eating because of problems with their teeth, 70 percent 
had not seen a dentist in the past year. And of those who had trouble 
seeing, 43 percent had not had an eye exam in the past year. The reason 
for many seniors was affordability.
  According to the latest statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 
more than half of Medicare beneficiaries live on incomes below $26,200 
per year. For them to pay out of pocket creates extreme hardship.
  Sadly, reliable data shows that neglect of all health, and even the 
lack of routine dental exams and cleanings, can deteriorate overall 
physical health and exacerbate serious and complicated health problems 
that increase with age.
  It is also increasingly well documented that untreated vision and 
hearing loss diminishes quality of life and increases the risk of 
costly health outcomes, such as falls and resulting disability, 
depression, and dementia.
  My bill would remove the restrictions currently prohibiting Medicare 
coverage of these basic healthcare necessities such as eyeglasses, 
hearing aids, and dental care. Expanding Medicare coverage for these 
services is a cost-effective intervention that will prevent accidents, 
falls, cognitive impairments, and increases in chronic conditions and 
oral cancer.
  Madam Speaker, if we do not address these gaps in health coverage 
now, the overall health of our aging population will continue to suffer 
and the need for costly and avoidable services will increase. But most 
importantly, giving our older adults the gift of hearing, vision, and 
oral health would go a long way toward helping our seniors enjoy their 
golden years free from depression and social isolation.
  It is time to recognize that total healthcare for our seniors must 
include adequate access to vision, hearing, and dental services. I urge 
my colleagues to cosponsor the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act, 
and ensure a healthier future for all our seniors.