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Dental Use and Expenditures for Older Uninsured Americans: The Simulated Impact of Expanded Coverage

Keywords: Dental utilization; insurance; coverage; retirement

Objective: To determine if providing dental insurance to older Americans would close the current gaps in dental use and expenditure between insured and uninsured older Americans.

Data Sources/Study Setting: We used data from the 2008 Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) supplemented by data from the 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS).

Study Design: We compared the simulated dental use and expenditures rates of newly insured persons against the corresponding rates for those previously insured.

Data Collection/Extraction Methods: The HRS is a nationally representative survey administered by the Institute for Social Research (ISR). The MEPS is a nationally representative household survey sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Principal Findings: We found that expanding dental coverage to older uninsured Americans would close previous gaps in dental use and expense between uninsured and insured noninstitutionalized Americans 55 years and older.

Conclusions: Providing dental coverage to previously uninsured older adults would produce estimated monthly costs net of markups for administrative costs that comport closely to current market rates. Estimates also suggest that the total cost of providing dental coverage targeted specifically to nonusers of dental care may be less than similar costs for prior users.

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