2.1 million Coloradans lack dental insurance

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The number of people in Colorado without dental insurance grew to 2.1 million in 2011, up from 1.8 million just two years earlier.

Access to dental care is a growing problem in the state, according to a study by The Colorado Trust, a nonprofit health grants organization.

the number of uninsured has grown 17 percent since 2011, according to the latest Colorado Health Access Survey, and its more than twice the number of people without health insurance, according to the report.

The problem is worse among Hispanic Coloradans, with 52.8 percent reporting a lack of dental insurance, higher than the state’s white and black populations.

Having dental insurance is associated with seeking and receiving dental care. Of people with insurance, 76.9 percent visited a dentist, compared to 44.5 percent without insurance.

However, the percentage of people going to the dentist dropped from from 66.3 percent in 2009 to 63.4 percent in 2011. 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.

Other key findings  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.