Lack of Dental Insurance Among Older Adults

senior3Medicare is focused specifically on physical health needs and does not cover basic oral health care. This leaves a staggering 49 million Medicare beneficiaries in this country without dental insurance.

According to research on Medicare beneficiaries conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, only 12 percent of older Americans have some form of dental insurance and fewer than half visited a dentist in the previous year. Analysis of 2012 Medicare data showed that insurance status appeared to be the biggest predictor of whether a person received oral health care. For those with incomes just over the federal poverty level, 27 percent of those without dental insurance had a dental visit in the previous year, compared to 65 percent with dental insurance.

Furthermore, high-income beneficiaries were almost three times as likely to have received dental care in the previous 12 months as compared to low-income beneficiaries, 74 percent of whom reported receiving no dental care.

On average, Medicare beneficiaries reported spending $427 on dental care over the previous year, 77 percent of which was out-of-pocket spending. An estimated seven percent reported spending more than $1,500. Dental expenses, on average, accounted for 14 percent of Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket health spending.

Bottom line: There is an enormous unmet need for dental insurance among those 65 and older in the United States. It puts older adults at risk for oral health problems that could be prevented or treated with timely dental care, including tooth decay, gum disease and loss of teeth. It also highlights the financial burden associated with dental visits, among both the insured and uninsured.

Dr. Douglas Angell and the dental hygienists at Angell’s Dentistry are committed to providing each of our patients with a beautiful, healthy smile and unmatched dental care. We invite you to visit our website at: www.angellsdentistry.com.

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