The Demand for Dental Care

Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Health Insurance

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 report examines the effect of cost sharing on use of dental services other than orthodontia. The data come from a nonaged, noninstitutionalized civilian population of four urban and two rural sites. The authors reach two major conclusions: (1) Reducing the level of cost sharing increases demand for dental services; dental expenses rise 46 percent when the coinsurance rate falls from 95 percent to 0 percent, subject to a catastrophic limit on out-of-pocket expenses. (2) Increased income affects dental visits differently than dental expenditures; lower-income individuals tend to have more expensive visits than high-income individuals.

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