OBJECTIVE: To examine dental insurance transition dynamics in the context of changing employment and retirement status.
STUDY DESIGN: Data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) were analyzed for individuals 51 years and older between the 2004 and 2006 waves of the HRS.
METHODS: The primary focus of the analysis is the relationship between retirement and transitions in dental care coverage. We calculate and present bivariate relationships between dental coverage and retirement status transitions over time and estimate a multivariable model of dental coverage controlling for retirement and other potentially confounding covariates.
RESULTS: Older adults are likely to lose their dental coverage on entering retirement compared with those who remain in the labor force between waves of the HRS. While more than half of those persons in the youngest group (51-64 years) were covered over this entire period, two-thirds of those in the oldest group (>or=75 years) were without coverage over the same period. We observe a high percentage of older persons flowing into and out of dental coverage over the period of our study, similar to flows into and out of poverty.
CONCLUSIONS: Dental insurance is an important factor in the decision to seek dental care. Yet, no dental coverage is provided by Medicare, which provides medical insurance for almost all Americans 65 years and older. This loss of coverage could lead to distortions in the timing of when to seek care, ultimately leading to worse oral and overall health.