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Medical Care:
doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000168
Brief Reports

The Effect of the Affordable Care Act’s Expanded Coverage Policy on Access to Dental Care

Vujicic, Marko PhD; Yarbrough, Cassandra MPP; Nasseh, Kamyar PhD

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Abstract

Background:

The Affordable Care Act included a dependent coverage policy that extends parents’ or guardians’ health insurance to adults aged 19–25. This policy does not apply directly to private dental benefits. However, for various reasons it could still have an indirect “spillover” effect if employers voluntarily expand dental coverage in conjunction with medical coverage.

Objective:

To assess the effect of the Affordable Care Act’s dependent coverage policy on private dental benefits coverage, utilization, and financial barriers to dental care.

Research Design:

Difference-in-differences models were used to measure the association between the dependent coverage policy and private dental benefits coverage, utilization, and financial barriers to dental care. We analyze 2008–2012 National Health Interview Survey data, comparing results in 2011 and 2012 with results from 2008 to 2010 (prereform period).

Subjects:

Adults aged 19–25 were compared with adults aged 26–34.

Measures:

Private dental benefits coverage, dental care utilization, and financial barriers to obtaining needed dental care.

Results:

Relative to the prereform period, private dental benefits coverage among adults aged 19–25 increased by 5.6 percentage points in 2011 (P<0.001) and 6.9 percentage points in 2012 (P<0.001) compared with adults aged 26–34. Dental care utilization among adults aged 19–25 increased by 2.8 percentage points in 2011 (P=0.062) and 3.3 percentage points in 2012 (P=0.038) compared with adults aged 26–34. Adults aged 19–25 experienced a 2.1 percentage point decrease in 2011 (P=0.068) and a 2.0 percentage point decrease in 2012 (P=0.087) in financial barriers to dental care compared with adults aged 26–34.

Conclusions:

The dependent coverage policy was associated with an increase in private dental benefits coverage and dental care utilization, and a decrease in financial barriers to dental care among young adults aged 19–25.

Copyright © 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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