NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Nothing to Smile About

October 9, 2003

Dental insurance is a very good thing that could easily turn into a very bad thing for baby boomers, say observers.

They were the first generation to grow up with workplace health benefits, notes Linda Niessen, a geriatric dentist and professor of restoration sciences at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas. "They think of dental insurance as a given."

Hanging on to dental insurance could be a serious problem as these boomers age, dental experts predict:

  • The lack of such coverage is a long-standing problem for senior citizens enrolled in the government's Medicare program.
  • Medicare simply doesn't cover routine dental care, and most people's dental insurance stops when they retire.
  • Fewer than 20 percent of people over age 65 have any kind of dental insurance, a distinction that earned the nation a big fat D from the group, Oral Health America.
  • And most of that coverage is under Medicaid, the government's program for low-income people, who often must settle for dentures.

And the problem is only going to get worse, warns Robert Klaus, president of Oral Health America. "Unfortunately, the lack of dental coverage for the elderly is an invisible issue."

Source: Sherry Jacobson, "Gleam and gloom," Dallas Morning News, October 6, 2003.


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