Friday, August 31, 2012

Medicare and Tricare coverage for oral appliances

Medicare, Tricare and other government insurances should cover oral appliances but that does not mean it will be easy. Medicare requires dentists form a DME, then pays poorly, See question from Eduardo received 8/31/12

Question from Eduardo: Why has my dentist taken so long to see if I can get an oral appliance for sleep apnea and snoring. Also I need to know if most of your Dentist take medicare and Tricare for life, I need to get something going.The doctor I have is taking too long I aplied back in May 2012 and still nothing

Dr Shapira response: Unfortunately while covered by medicare most docs won't take it. Medicare requires that an the dentist has a DME and choice of appliances is very limited. I do not accept medicare and have opted out and medicare patients pay my fee. My office is near great lake navak base but tricare has never paid for an appliance.

The good news is that CPAP is very successful if you can tolerate it. If not you must be proactive with Tricare and/or medicare that they find you a provider.

My suggestion is just to pay out of pocket if you can afford it otherwise get on CPAP while waiting for approval.

The good news about untreated sleep apnea is that it can kill you......the bad news is that it can cause a stroke!


There are several questions when it comes to Medicare coverage. First is whether medicare can afford to take on the cost of oral appliances considering the majority of seniors have some sleep disordered breathing. The requirement that dentists form DME's for each office is ridiculous, expensive and cumbersome. The proper approach is for Medicare to contract with Medicare approved labs that make appliances for sleep apnea and to pay the lab cost directly to the manufacturer. The dentist professional fee should be governed by standard Medicare B pay codes and fees. The alternative is that dentists opt out and patients make private arrangements for professional services.

Medicare should cover appliance manufacturers for the appliance based on specific appliances. My personal feelings is that there should be a minimal qualification of the dentist to have medicare cover the lab costs. A good idea might be to use diplomate status in the AADSM. Dentists who do not meet requirements would just do private contracts for the full amount. The dentist would not need to participate in Medicare but could if they desired.

Labs would have to meet Medicare standards for coverage, a difficult to define and ever changing target. Because labs serve thousands of dentists it would be financially effective.

It should be clearly understood that medicare would limit the number of appliance types.

In Illinois, Southern Wisconsin I personally treat patients with medicare after an opt out is signed. Patients who opt out of medicare can use the appliance of their choosing but must pay for it themselves.