April 20, 2016 – On Tuesday, April 19, 2016 President Barack Obama signed into law the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016. This reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA) includes for the first time provisions for oral health. This reauthorization opens the door for state and area agencies on aging to use funds to improve the oral health of older adults throughout the United States.

 

Below, please read a brief summary of the changes created by the new law: 

  • 102 of the Older Americans Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 3002) is amended to include Oral Health in paragraph (14)(B).

"...For the purposes of this act... (14) The term "disease prevention and health promotion services'' means...

...(B) routine health screening, which may include hypertension, glaucoma, cholesterol, cancer, vision, hearing, diabetes, oral health, bone density, and nutrition screening..." 

  • 202. of the Act states:

"...(a) It shall be the duty and function of the Administration to...28 "...make available to States, area agencies on aging, and service providers information and technical assistance to support the provision of evidence-based disease prevention and health promotion services (which now includes oral health..."

 

The law also allocates funds to oral health

  • 303. of the Act states:

"... (d) There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out part D (relating to disease prevention and health promotion services (which now includes oral health) such sums as may be necessary..." 

 

Nearly 12 million U.S. seniors will benefit from the Older Americans Act funding; through the services they receive from state and area agencies.

This is a victory for millions of older Americans, and for the numerous groups, including the Center for Oral Health and California's coalition, Oral Health Action California, that urged U.S. Congress to include oral health in the reauthorization bill. Seventy percent of older Americans lack dental benefits, which are excluded from Medicare.

It is important for the oral health community to work with Area Agencies on Aging to identify and support best practices to deliver needed oral health care services.

Dr. Conrado Barzaga, Executive Director of the Center for Oral Health states, "We are proud of the collective impact of organizations across the U.S. that advocated for the inclusion of oral health provisions under this Reauthorization Act. The inclusion of oral health provisions is a first since the enactment of the Older Americans Act, we thank Congress for its strong bipartisan support in passing this bill, and thank President Obama for signing it into law”.

 

The Older Americans Act of 1965 was the first federal level initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for older adults. It created the National Aging Network, which is comprised of The Administration on Aging on the federal level, State Units on Aging, and Area Agencies on Aging at the local level. The network provides funding supportive home and community-based services, disease prevention/health promotion services (now including Oral Health), among other programs.