In 2011, 4 million children did not obtain needed dental care because their families could not afford it, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. In 2008, more than 40 percent of adults with tooth or mouth problems did not see a dentist because they lacked dental coverage or the money to pay for care. Roughly 62 percent of Americans carry private or public dental coverage, a rate that is about the same as it was in 1996, according to the report, “Dental Services: Information on Coverage, Payments, and Fee Variation.”
“Unfortunately … not much has changed in this arena,” said Kathleen Iritani, explaining the findings in an interview on the GAO’s Watchdog report.
Most people know that they need to go to the dentist often. Having dental coverage is strongly associated with the use of dental services. Americans often say that the cost of dental care and the lack of dental coverage are reasons they don’t get needed dental care,” Irritani said.
The GAO report revealed a shift away from private coverage and toward public coverage when 1996 and 2010 rates were compared. The percentage of Americans with private dental coverage decreased from 53 percent to 50 percent, while coverage through Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) increased from 9 percent to 13 percent.
Individuals with no dental coverage decreased from 28 percent to 25 percent, and coverage for 10 percent to 12 percent of the population was unknown, according to the study. Continue reading