FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Julian Kesner, Director of Communications
303-539-3147; [email protected]
DENVER, COLO.—According to a new Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) report, the number of Coloradans without dental insurance grew to 2.1 million in 2011 from 1.8 million in 2009—a 17 percent increase from the 2008-09 baseline survey. Over 2.5 times as many Coloradans were without dental insurance than were without health insurance in 2011. The problem is even more pronounced among Hispanic Coloradans, the majority of whom (52.8 percent) reported that they lack dental insurance, an increase from 47.6 percent in 2008-2009. Hispanic Coloradans lack dental insurance at a higher rate than white (39.1 percent) and black (29.9 percent) Coloradans.
Having dental insurance is associated with seeking and receiving dental care. Of Coloradans with dental insurance, 76.9 percent visited a dental professional, compared to 44.5 percent of Coloradans without dental insurance. Yet cost can still be a factor even for those with insurance. The percentage of all Coloradans who received dental services fell from 66.3 percent in 2009 to 63.4 percent in 2011. The CHAS found that it was not only uninsured Coloradans that decreased their use of dental services, but insured Coloradans as well. Nearly one in four Coloradans reported they did not receive needed dental care due to cost, and 36.6 percent of this group had dental insurance. This suggests there are barriers to receiving dental care besides insurance status, including costs for services not covered by insurance and lack of availability of dental providers, especially in rural areas. Fewer individuals in rural areas reported visiting a dentist than those in more urban areas of the state.
“Oral health care should not be considered optional or a luxury. Going without basic dental care often leads to oral disease with unnecessary pain, more invasive care and higher costs, and can result in even bigger health problems. This is clearly a growing problem, especially for Hispanic, low-income and rural Coloradans,” said Ned Calonge, MD, President and CEO of The Colorado Trust. “Coloradans need to speak up for the care they need to stay healthy, including oral health. By working together, Colorado can be a leader in moving toward such a common sense goal.”
Other key findings from the 2011 CHAS about oral health care include:
- An additional 66,300 children (ages 0-18) had dental insurance in 2011 compared to 2008-2009. Despite this, fewer children actually visited a dental professional during the same period. Many of these additional children are covered by Medicaid, which does not have an adequate number of participating dental providers, especially in the rural areas of the state.
- The age group most frequently reporting a lack of dental insurance was adults ages 65 and over. Medicare does not include a dental benefit, except for some Medicare Advantage plans.
- Lower-income Coloradans lack dental insurance at a higher rate than those with higher incomes. In addition, uninsured Coloradans with low incomes did not seek dental care as often as uninsured Coloradans with higher incomes.
The CHAS report suggests several policy implications for addressing the decrease in access to oral health care:
- Increased access to dental insurance. There are a number of ways to address this, such as integrating private dental and health insurance, including adequate dental benefits in public insurance and making dental insurance available through the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange.
- Better benefit package for dental insurance. This will remove the cost barrier that many people face even if they have dental insurance.
- Growth in the oral health workforce, especially in rural areas. The highest percentages of Coloradans who reported not visiting a dentist lived in rural areas.
The 2011 Colorado Health Access Survey is a program of The Colorado Trust and is administered as a random-sample telephone survey of more than 10,000 Colorado households, with the findings representative of all Coloradans. The Colorado Health Institute manages the data collection and analysis. The Colorado Trust has committed more than $4.5 million to conduct the CHAS every other year through at least 2017 to provide information needed to help policy, health care, business and community leaders more fully understand health challenges and work together to achieve improved access to health for all Coloradans.
To learn more about the CHAS, visit Colorado Health Institute.