The Demand for Dental Care

Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Health Insurance

Published in: Journal of the American Dental Association, v. 110, no. 6, June 1985, p. 895-902

by Willard G. Manning, Howard L. Bailit, Bernadette Benjamin, Joseph P. Newhouse

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Using data from a randomized trial in health insurance, this paper examines the effect of cost sharing on use of dental services. The data come from a sample of the nonaged, noninstitutionalized civilian population of six urban and rural sites. The authors find that: reducing the level of cost sharing increases demand for dental services; and dental expenses rise 46% when the coinsurance rate falls from 95% to 0%, subject to a catastrophic limit on out-of-pocket expenses. Of this increase, two-thirds is attributable to an increase in the likelihood of visiting a dentist during the year. Moreover, there is a substantial surge in demand during the first year of more generous coverage. The first-year response to cost sharing is nearly twice the second-year response.

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