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More U.S. children are getting government dental insurance

About 30 percent of U.S. children and adolescents were covered by government-sponsored dental insurance in 2006, a significant increase from the 18 percent covered in 1996, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Private dental insurance enrollment remained relatively unchanged during the period. Much of the increase resulted from the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which began in 1997, and extensions of Medicaid coverage for dental services.

AHRQ's analysis also found that between 1996 and 2006:

  • Enrollment in government dental insurance rose sharply among Hispanic and black adolescents and children, 48 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
  • White children and adolescents were less likely than blacks and Hispanics to have public dental insurance, but their enrollment doubled, climbing from 10 percent to 20 percent.
  • Largely due to expanded government coverage, only 19 percent of U.S. children had no dental insurance in 2006 compared with 29 percent in 1996.

The data are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid.

For more information, go to  Dental Coverage of Children and Young Adults under Age 21, United States, 1996 and 2006, MEPS Statistical Brief #221.

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