Dentists in New York have one of the highest vacancy rates of any profession, and that’s not the fault of a shortage of new ones, says Dr. William W. Sullivan, a professor of public health and public policy at New York University.
Sullivan and his colleagues have conducted an analysis of the dental care available in Manhattan over the last two decades and concluded that there are three primary reasons why the dentists have so few new residents: the lack of qualified dentists, the low supply of dentists and the lack or difficulty of getting dental insurance.
“In the last 30 years, we’ve seen dental inflation and there’s been an increasing demand for dentists in the city,” Sullivan says.
The supply of dental care is still not high enough to meet the growing demand for a dentist, so a dentist who can’t get the job is going to be out of business.
New York is not alone in this.
About 1.4 million Americans, or 1 in 4 adults, live with a chronic dental condition that requires extensive care, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
“There are fewer and fewer people who are able to maintain a quality of care for themselves and their families,” Sullivan adds.
In addition to dental issues, health care is a major factor in keeping people from becoming permanent residents of New York.
About 50% of residents who move to New York from a state with lower dental insurance have to pay more in dental insurance premiums, according the New York State Association of Dental Plans.
“The more you have dental coverage, the more expensive you have to be to have a dentist in your home,” Sullivan explains.
“It’s not that the cost of living is too high, it’s just that you have a lot of options in your health care and dentistry, which is a disadvantage to people who have less access to care.”
In addition, many people who move out of their homes for dental reasons, like for work or retirement, don’t have the dental insurance that comes with New York’s high cost of health care.
For this reason, dental insurance has become a key reason why people leave New York, Sullivan says, and it’s a factor that will continue to weigh on the state’s finances.
For a full breakdown of dental rates in New Jersey, click here.
“If you’re moving out of a state where the rate of dental insurance is not high, and you’re just looking for a lower cost option, and they’ve got dental plans available, then it makes sense to get dental insurance,” he says.
“Because there’s a very limited amount of options for dental care in New Zealand.”
In New Zealand, the rate is higher than in New England, but it’s not as high as it is in New Mexico or California, where dental care costs about $1,000 more per year than in the U.S. “But if you’re looking for the lowest cost option for dental coverage in New Hampshire or Vermont, that’s the biggest barrier for people,” Sullivan notes.
“We know that New York has some of the lowest rates in the country, but the rates are not as low as the rates in some of those other states.”
The New Jersey State Assembly is scheduled to vote on legislation that would increase dental insurance coverage in the state and would allow the state to negotiate prices for dental services with insurers.
The bill would also require the state Department of Health to develop a plan to provide affordable dental care.
But as Sullivan and other experts have pointed out, the state could not afford to provide dental insurance to everyone, and so it will continue negotiating with insurers to provide coverage for low-income New Yorkers.
That could mean an increase in costs for some New Yorkers, but would also lead to lower rates for other New Yorkers as well, as insurance companies would be forced to cover more of the costs for lower-income people, as they would be able to cover them more easily.
Sullivan says that New Jersey’s dental care system is a model for other states that are looking to expand their dental insurance programs.
“I think that it’s really important for New Jersey to be on the forefront of what other states are doing, and to really build on what we have already done here,” he explains.
But it may not be the best solution for everyone.
“New York has the highest dental insurance rates in North America,” Sullivan acknowledges.
“And in the case of people who live in rural areas, the costs are more expensive because they don’t live near a dental clinic.”
For the next few years, Sullivan will be visiting New York and other states looking to provide additional dental coverage for the people who moved out.
“That’s going to make the state healthier and the economy better,” he predicts.
“To do that, we’re going to have to look at a whole host of different options.”
To learn more about the health issues facing New Yorkers and how to