Medicare pays for a range of health care benefits for older adults and persons living with disabilities. But routine teeth cleaning, vision and hearing tests, eyeglass and hearing aid fittings, and similar procedures are not covered.
For seniors and adults with disabilities who have trouble paying for these services, several programs may be able to help.
What dental, vision, and hearing benefits does Medicare cover?
Original Medicare (Parts A and B) covers the following services:
- Dental: Medicare will pay for dental services that are medically necessary prior to another Medicare-covered procedure. For example, Medicare may cover tooth extraction for a person with oral cancer prior to radiation treatment.
- Vision: Part B covers an annual glaucoma test for at-risk individuals, an annual exam to test for diabetic retinopathy among diabetics, certain diagnostic tests and screenings for macular degeneration, and cataract surgery plus one pair of post-surgery eyeglasses.
- Hearing: Part B covers diagnostic hearing and balance exams if a provider orders these tests to see if a person requires medical treatment for a condition other than hearing loss.
Does Medicare Advantage/Medicaid pay for dental, vision, and hearing services?
If you are enrolled in a private Medicare Advantage plan, or you also have Medicaid, you should check with your plan to see what it covers. Medicare Advantage plans and Medicaid sometimes pay for services that are not covered under Original Medicare.
Where can seniors go for help if they cannot afford dental, vision, and hearing treatment?
Use the links and contact information below to see whether any of these programs can help. Many of these programs are also included in a comprehensive benefits screening offered by BenefitsCheckUp®.
- Some states offer stand-alone dental plans through the health insurance Marketplaces. People with Medicare are not eligible for subsidies to pay for these plans. Find your state Marketplace at HealthCare.gov or call the Marketplace call center (available 24/7) at 1-800-318-2596.
- Community Health Centers provide health services, including dental care, to those with limited incomes, usually on a sliding scale payment.
- Local dental schools sometimes provide the community with lower cost services as a way of training new dentists and dental hygienists. Search for a nearby school at the American Dental Association or the American Dental Hygienists Association.
- The Dental Lifeline Network runs a program offering free, comprehensive dental treatment to vulnerable people, including the elderly and those living with disabilities.
- Tooth Wisdom is a new website that educates older adults and caregivers about the importance of oral health and links to state-specific resources for dental care.
- EyeCare America®, a service of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, provides free eye exams and up to one year of care for low-income individuals who qualify.
- Mission Cataract USA offers free cataract surgery to those without insurance (including Medicare/Medicaid).
- Vision USA, a program of the American Optometric Association, provides free eye exams for low-income Americans without insurance.
- Sertoma is a civic service organization that connects people with hearing assistance.
- The Foundation for Sight and Sound, through its Help America Hear Program, provides hearing aids for men, women, and children with limited financial resources.
- The Better Hearing Institute maintains a comprehensive, free Guide to Financial Assistance for Hearing Aids.