NEW YORK (MainStreet) — A disturbing trend has emerged amid the health care hoopla: More than 45% of Americans don’t have dental coverage, and that number is growing. Companies are cutting back on dental coverage, and that could result in a nationwide epidemic of lousy teeth, says one industry group. But take heart: Aside from a good toothbrush and reliable flossing habits, much more can be done about it.
Let’s look at the problem first, and then some solutions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the roughly 172 million Americans under 65 with health insurance, 73% did have some dental care coverage. But a large segment of Americans in that demographic – 45 million, to be exact – didn’t have any.
You’re more likely to have dental insurance if you work for a company, especially a large one, or the government. The CDC says that eight out of 10 Americans with employment-based health insurance had dental coverage. But for those who work for themselves, or for those at small firms, only three in 10 had dental coverage.
Financial status was the biggest factor in differentiating those with dental insurance and those without. The CDC reports that “As income level increased, the percentage having dental insurance increased.”
Current trends show dental coverage in decline. The NADP/DDPA 2010 Dental Benefits Enrollment Report concludes that dental benefits decreased by 5.7% from 2008 to 2009. It’s the first time the NADP has ever recorded a decline in dental insurance since it started tracking the market in 1964. The report says that from 2008 to 2009, 10 million Americans were pared from the dental benefits rolls.
As usual, when it comes to harsh financial news, the Great Recession is mostly to blame for the drop in dental care coverage. "The reduction in subscribers in some employer groups in 2009 most likely reflects family financial constraints and layoffs, as our data indicates that dental benefits remain an important part of employer benefits programs despite a challenging economy," said Kim Volk, President & CEO of DDPA.