Annual meeting

House of Delegates focuses on seniors' needs in pair of resolutions

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The health and well-being of senior adults were addressed in a pair of resolutions approved by the ABA House of Delegates on Monday.

Resolution 103A, which delegates passed overwhelmingly at the annual meeting in San Francisco, urges Congress to support legislation that would repeal the statutory exclusion of dental care and dentures from Medicare and then add coverage of comprehensive dental and oral health services to the program.

Medicare does not currently cover dental benefits because of the statutory exclusion in the Social Security Act.

The Medicare Dental Benefit Act of 2019 was introduced in the Senate to repeal the exclusion and expand Medicare Part B benefits to cover dental and oral health care services. A related bill, the Medicare Dental, Vision and Hearing Benefit Act of 2019, was introduced in the House and also would increase Medicare dental benefits.

Retired Tempe Municipal Court Presiding Judge Louraine Arkfeld, who chairs the Commission on Law and Aging, spoke to the House of Delegates in support of the resolution.

“How many of you know that 70% of all seniors have no dental care coverage?” she said. “Why is that? There is private insurance available, but of course it is very expensive.”

Arkfeld added that seniors without dental benefits aren’t just unable to get their teeth cleaned or whitened. They also may face complications related to poor dental hygiene in other medical situations, including heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

“We need to continue to stand behind our seniors in need,” she said.

The resolution was sponsored by the Commission on Law and Aging and the Senior Lawyers Division.

The second measure, Resolution 103B, encourages attorneys who provide advance care planning as part of their estate planning services to consider the principles developed through a project funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation. As part of the project, the Commission on Law and Aging tasked more than 30 legal and clinical experts with examining how advance care planning practices of lawyers and clinicians could better align.

The resolution, which passed overwhelmingly, additionally encourages attorneys who provide advance care planning to consider greater collaboration with medical providers and the health care system.

Arkfeld also spoke in favor of this resolution, telling the House of Delegates that she guaranteed they would all face difficult health care decisions and issues at some point in their lives.

She pointed out that the Commission on Law and Aging project examined how advance care planning could be brought into better alignment to “better ensure that clients and patients—that means all of you—make sure your values, goals and wishes are known and honored near the end of life.”

The resolution was sponsored by the Commission on Law and Aging, Senior Lawyers Division and Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section.

Follow along with our coverage of the 2019 ABA Annual Meeting.

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