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Dental economy slowed in 2013

September 04, 2014

By Craig Palmer

Washington — The dental economy took a sharper hit from the Great Recession and is slower to recover than other sectors of the health care economy, government actuaries said in a report projecting 2013-2023 national health expenditures.

Dental spending will grow over the next decade albeit at a slower pace than hospital, physician and other health services measured by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and reported by the journal Health Affairs as a Web First article.

For 2013, national health spending growth overall is expected to remain low at 3.6 percent "as a result of the sluggish economic recovery," the report said. But the projected growth in dental spending in 2013 is just 1.9 percent, the only health services sector projected to have less than a 2 percent growth rate in 2013 and less than the actual dental growth rate in 2012.

That slower dental recovery is projected through 2023. During the full projection period national health expenditures are projected to increase at an average rate of 5.7 percent per year and dental spending at an average rate of 5.1 percent. Dental spending will increase from a projected $113 billion in 2013 to $191.8 billion in 2023, according to the report.

Asked to explain the greater impact of the recession on the dental economy, CMS actuaries said the dental sector is "really sensitive to fluctuations in the economy" and that going forward under the Affordable Care Act "some of the newly insured may or may not have dental coverage." A CMS economist also cited reports that she said indicate lower offers of employer dental coverage and an age group shifting from employer to Medicare coverage.

Every year, the CMS Office of the Actuary releases an analysis of how Americans are likely to spend their health care dollars in the coming decade. Projections for the 2013-2023 period take into account a combination of factors affecting health care spending including national economic forecasts and demographic trends. CMS expects to report actual 2013 dental spending later this year.