About a Third of American Adults Skip Dental Care Due to Costs

Dentistry Today
Courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund.


Courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund.

While more Americans now have health insurance, cost remains a particular barrier to oral care, according to the Commonwealth Fund. The private foundation recently conducted an international survey of 11 nations, revealing that adults in the United States are far more likely than those in other countries to go without needed care because of financial barriers. 

According to the survey, 32% of US adults skipped dental care in the past year because of costs. A lack of dental care also was a concern in other countries, though not as pronounced, with more than one in 5 adults in Switzerland, Canada, France, Australia, and New Zealand saying they skipped dental care or checkups because of costs. Only 11% of adults in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands reported this problem.

These rates paced Americans’ inability to pay for other medical needs, with 33% of US adults going without recommended care, seeing a doctor when they were sick, or filling prescriptions because of cost. Additionally, 15% of US adults reported worrying about having enough money for nutritious food, and 16% reported struggling to afford their rent or mortgage.

“Previous surveys have shown that, especially compared to other industrialized nations, the US has far too many people who can’t afford the care they need, even when they have health insurance,” said Robin Osborn, vice president and director of the Commonwealth Fund’s International Program in Health Policy and Practice Innovations and the study’s lead author.

“We can learn from what is working in other nations,” said Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal, MD. “If we’re going to do better for our patients, we need to create a healthcare system that addresses the needs of everyone, especially our sickest patients, and those who struggle to make ends meet.”  

The study’s authors say that overcoming some of the major barriers to access and affordability in the United States could address many of the concerns voiced in the survey. For example, they recommend expanding Medicaid eligibility in the 19 states that have yet to do so, limited the amount of money people must spend out-of-pocket for healthcare, and supporting a strong primary care system.

The study, “In New Survey of Eleven Countries, US Adults Still Struggle With Access to and Affordability of Health Care,” was published by Health Affairs.

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