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Aug. 27, 2019, 12:49 p.m. EDT

Where to find low-cost services for all the things Medicare doesn’t cover

Many organizations offer options for low-income people over 65

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By Edie Grossfield


AFP/Getty Images
Routine vision care isn’t covered by Medicare.

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org .

Medicare covers most health care services, including preventative care. But as new users of the federal health insurance program soon find out, it typically does not cover routine dental, vision and hearing care.

Medicare may cover some of these services when it relates to another serious medical issue or when a person is at risk for certain diseases. For example, Medicare would cover the care needed for an injured jaw from a car accident, and it covers an annual glaucoma test for people who are at high risk for the disease.

Some Medicare Advantage plans — offered by Medicare-approved private insurers — cover routine dental, vision and hearing care services (most also include prescription drug coverage). But most Medicare Advantage plans have a monthly premium, and that’s in addition to the Part B (general outpatient care, doctor visits, preventative) Medicare premium. The standard, monthly, Part B premium amount for 2019 is $135.50, or higher depending on your income.

Also see: 5 things you probably didn’t know about Medicare

But many older Americans can’t afford Medicare Advantage plans or out-of-pocket fees for dental, vision and hearing care and, therefore, go without these important services.

To help, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has a guide to finding low-cost or free dental, vision and hearing services that Medicare doesn’t cover. They’re offered by national and community nonprofits, professional associations and colleges.

Here is a sample of what you can find on NCOA’s guide:

How to find dental services

The national  Dental Lifeline Network , an affiliate of the American Dental Association, operates the  Donated Dental Services program. It provides free, comprehensive dental care to people who cannot afford dental services and who have a permanent disability or are older than 65 or are medically fragile. The program has a volunteer network of 15,000 dentists and 3,500 dental labs throughout the U.S., according to its website.

Also see: Why 37 million people in the U.S. don’t have dental coverage — and the painful price they pay

Community Health Centers , which are supported by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), provide health services, including dental care, to people with limited incomes — usually on a sliding fee scale. You can  search for a Community Health Center  on HRSA’s Data Warehouse webpage.

Vision health services

The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s  EyeCare America  is a public service providing eye care for people with low incomes. About 5,500 ophthalmologists volunteer for the service, which has an eye care program for people 65 and older and a glaucoma-testing program.

Many local  Lions’ Club  chapters offer assistance to people who have severe vision impairment. The club’s website has a  chapter locator function.

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