Using data from the Rand Health Insurance Experiment, the effects of cost-sharing plans on the health of the primary teeth in 264 children aged 3 to 5 years were investigated. From six areas in the United States, families were assigned at random to different dental and medical insurance plans. The plans varied in the amount of required cost sharing. Families participated in the study for 3 (70%) or 5 (30%) years. Children covered by the plan (requiring no cost sharing) had significantly fewer decayed teeth and deft (decayed, extracted, and filled teeth) at the end of the study than did children covered by the cost-sharing plans. No differences existed among plans in the number of extracted and restored teeth. Children of middle- and low-income families benefited most from having access to free dental care.
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