National spending on dental care (when adjusted for inflation) continues to rise year after year, according to a new report from the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF).1 As a share of all health care services, however, dental spending continues to decline, as more money goes toward hospital care, physician and clinical services, and prescription drugs. The 20-year average annual growth rates for these three largest growth categories are 5.7%, 5.4% and 8.8%, respectively.There are numerous reasons other health spending categories are growing more quickly than dental. For example, chronic illness in the U.S. population has increased dramatically. A 2014 report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that, as of 2010, 51.7% of Americans had at least one chronic condition, and nearly a third (31.5%) had multiple chronic conditions.2 It also noted that 86% of health care spending is for patients with one or more chronic conditions.2 While patients with certain chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, will need more dental care, much of the spending growth is related to hospital care and prescription drugs.
Part of the explanation may also be due to the uneven distribution of new government health care benefits. With the exception of dental coverage for children, the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) expansion in coverage went almost exclusively toward medical care. As a result, the biggest drop in dental services’ share of personal health care spending occurred between 2005 and 2014 — a period that included the passage and implementation of the ACA.
Although the factors behind the increase in health care spending may be beyond the control of dentists, the push to slow the continuing rise in spending will fall on all sectors, including oral health care. According to the CHCF’s report, health care spending will reach $5.6 trillion by 2025. That is projected to be 19.9% of the gross domestic product in 2025.1 At that point, the competition for health care dollars will almost certainly be even greater than today, and the need to prove the value and overall cost savings delivered by dental care will be even more essential.
- Wilson K. California Health Care Almanac. Health Care Costs 101: Spending Rose With More Coverage and Care. Available at: chcf.org/~/media/MEDIA%20LIBRARY%20Files/PDF/PDF%20H/PDF%20HealthCareCosts17.pdf. Accessed October 18, 2017.
- Gerteis J, Izrael D, Deitz D, et al. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Multiple Chronic Conditions Chartbook. Available at: ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/professionals/prevention-chronic-care/decision/ mcc/ mccchart book.pdf. Accessed October 18, 2017
From Decisions in Dentistry. November 2017;3(11):62.