chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

Kaiser Family Foundation Report Drills Down on Seniors and Dental Care

By Carole Fleck

(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 40, Issue 5.)

There’s nothing to smile about in this Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) report: Nearly two-thirds of people on Medicare had no dental coverage in 2016, the year of an analysis, and almost one in two hadn’t seen a dentist in a year.

These figures were even higher for minorities. Among those who said they did not have a dental visit in the past year in 2016 were African-American Medicare beneficiaries (71 percent); Hispanic beneficiaries (65 percent); low-income beneficiaries (70 percent); and those living in rural areas (59 percent), according to the KFF.

    In an issue brief, Drilling Down on Dental Coverage and Costs for Medicare Beneficiaries, the KFF found that overall, 10 percent of Medicare beneficiaries said they did not get needed dental care in the past year because they could not afford the expense. Those with low incomes (18 percent), in relatively poor health (24 percent), and beneficiaries under 65 with long-term disabilities (26 percent) also went without needed treatment.

    For individuals with access to dental coverage through Medicare Advantage plans, Medicaid, employer-sponsored retiree or individually purchased policies, coverage varied and was typically subject to annual caps. According to the issue brief, which was published in March, nearly one in five beneficiaries who used dental services (19 percent) spent more than $1,000 out-of-pocket on dental care in 2016. To put that in perspective, about half of Medicare beneficiaries live on less than $26,200 a year, the brief said.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation issue brief, Drilling Down on Dental Coverage and Costs for Medicare Beneficiaries,

Reprint Requests

All ABA content is copyrighted and may be reprinted and/or reproduced by permission only. In some cases, a fee may be charged. To protect the integrity of our authors’ work, we require that articles be reprinted unedited in their entirety. To request permission to reprint or reproduce any ABA content, go to the online reprint/reproduction request form.