Image of nurses' hands at computer keyboard

A bill introduced in both houses of Congress seeks to expand Medicare coverage for dental services and provide more oral care in long-term care facilities.

The “Comprehensive Dental Reform Act of 2013” was put forward Wednesday by Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). The legislation follows a recent Government Accountability Office report showing inefficiencies in the nation’s system of dental care, under which people often seek emergency room treatment for oral issues due to inadequate insurance coverage for routine and preventative dental care.

The bills also come shortly after a New York Times article exposing poor dental hygiene in nursing homes.

Under the proposed reforms, Medicare and Medicaid would expand coverage of dental services. It also calls for grants to organizations such as dental schools, enabling them to provide dental care at nursing homes and assisted living centers.

The provisions would take effect in 2014, and the bill calls for a subsequent cost-benefit analysis to determine if the expansion of dental services is reducing total healthcare costs for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

“[This bill] puts us on the path to universal access by increasing the availability of care and expanding coverage to veterans, seniors and low-income Americans,” said Cummings.

Click here to access a summary of the bill. Click here to access the full text.