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Report: Dental costs one of largest health care burdens for farm families
A new report issued by The Access Project finds that the cost of dental care represent more of a financial burden on families and individuals than has been previously recognized. The group, which surveyed family farm and ranch operators in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, discovered that dental costs constitute more than a quarter of families’ out-of-pocket health care spending.
Less than half of farm and ranch operators in the Great Plains states have dental insurance, and many pay more annually on dental care than they do for out-of-pocket prescription drugs. The 42 percent of ranch and farm families that report having dental insurance is well below the national average of roughly 60 percent.
The researchers also found that when factoring in the estimated costs of dental premiums, having dental insurance did not result in a major reduction in average costs. It did, however, make dental expenses more predictable, made it less likely that people delayed care and made it less likely that health care costs contributed to financial problems.
Specific findings from the report are as follows:
- Families on average spent $3,231 out-of-pocket for medical, prescription and dental care, including $873 on dental care and $700 on prescription drugs.
- Three-quarters of survey respondents had dental out-of-pocket costs, with similar percentages for those with and without dental insurance coverage (77 percent for those without dental insurance and 73 percent for those with coverage)
- Farm and ranch operators obtaining health insurance through off-farm or ranch employment were far more likely to have dental insurance (64 percent) than those purchasing their health insurance in the individual, non-group market (12 percent).
- When the estimated premium costs for dental insurance were factored in, the average amount spent in total (premiums plus out-of-pocket costs) were similar for those with dental insurance ($978) and those without such coverage ($1,007)
“A lot of attention has been paid to the high cost of prescription drugs,” said Carol Pryor, lead author of the report and policy director for The Access Project. “We hope this report grabs the attention of the policymakers since it shows that average dental costs can consume an even greater port of the family’s budget.”