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Study: Vast Unmet Need for Dental Insurance Among Seniors


If you feel you haven’t been seeing some of your older patients lately, it may not be just a coincidence. Only 12% of older Americans have some form of dental insurance and fewer have visited a dentist in the last year, according to new research on Medicare beneficiaries from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The findings were published in the December issue of the journal Health Affairs.

If you’re a dentist, you already know a basic truth that this study confirms: Insurance matters for whether a patient receives oral health care. According to an analysis of 2012 Medicare data, just 27% of those with dental insurance had a dental visit in the previous year, compared to 65% with dental insurance.

Here’s another fact that’s probably not a “shocker”: income also plays a role. High-income beneficiaries were 3 times as likely to have received dental care in the previous 12 months as compared to low-income beneficiaries, 74% of whom reported receiving no dental care.

Facts by the Numbers:

-49 million Medicare beneficiaries in this country do not have dental insurance.

-On average, Medicare beneficiaries reported spending $427 on dental care over the previous year.

-77% of the aforementioned spending was out of pocket.

-An estimated 7% of beneficiaries reported spending more than $1,500.

-Dental expenses accounted for 14% of Medicare beneficiaries’ out of pocket health spending.

The researchers also analyzed 2 separate proposals for adding dental benefits to Medicare. To read more about these plans, click here

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