Because dental care can be so expensive, it is the number one health care service people skimp on. As a result, people put themselves at serious risk of gum disease, infections, dental pain and tooth loss. In a recent Urban Institute survey, one in five people reported dental needs that they were not addressing. People under 65 are more likely to fill their prescriptions and get medical care than to visit the dentist.
The Urban Institute surveyed 7,500 adults with health insurance about their unmet medical needs.Of the people the Urban Institute surveyed with unmet medical needs, more than seven out of ten (71.4 percent) had an unmet dental need because of the cost. The problem is that health insurance usually does not cover dental care. And, most people do not have a separate dental insurance policy.
Not surprisingly, insured people with lower household incomes are most at risk of not getting dental care, particularly if they don’t have health insurance from their jobs. Almost one in three people with lower incomes and without employer coverage (32 percent)–up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level–reported unmet dental needs because of the cost.
But, many people with higher household incomes also forego needed dental care because of the cost. Almost one in four people with incomes as high as four times the federal poverty level $47,080 without employer coverage (24 percent) also reported foregoing dental care. In contrast, about one in six people (17.3 percent) without employer coverage and incomes above $47,080 said that they needed dental care but could not afford it.
People with employer coverage were somewhat more likely to get dental care than insured people without employer-sponsored coverage. Notably, more than half of employers who offer health coverage (53 percent) offer dental coverage as well.
The Affordable Care Act does not require health plans to offer dental care to adults, only to children. And, only slightly more than half of employers offer dental coverage. Moreover, dental coverage, when available, tends to be limited, requiring people to pay a lot of the cost of serious dental work out of pocket.
Keep in mind that, in some states, Medicaid covers some dental care. And, even if you’re not enrolled in Medicaid, you may be eligible depending upon your income, health care expenses and where you live. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a list of dental services Medicaid covers in each state.
Here’s more from Just Care:
- Five programs that lower your costs if you have Medicare
- Free and low-cost dental care
- Three things to do to address hearing loss as you grow older
- Three tips to plan for long-term care
- Four things to do to protect your eyesight
- How much of your health care costs will Medicare pay for?
- ER visits for dental care on the rise