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Health Serv Res. Oct 1999; 34(4): 901–921.
PMCID: PMC1089048

The effects of fee bundling on dental utilization.


OBJECTIVE: To examine dental utilization following an adjustment to the provincial fee schedule in which preventive maintenance (recall) services were bundled at lower fees. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING: Blue Cross dental insurance claims for claimants associated with four major Ontario employers using a common insurance plan over the period 1987-1990. STUDY DESIGN: This before-and-after design analyzes the dental claims experience over a four-year period for 4,455 individuals 18 years of age and older one year prior to the bundling of services, one year concurrent with the change, and two years after the introduction of bundling. The dependent variable is the annual adjusted payment per user. DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS: The analysis was based on all claims submitted by adult users for services received at recall visits and who reported at least one visit of this type between 1987 and 1990. In these data, 26,177 services were provided by 1,214 dentists and represent 41 percent of all adult service claims submitted over the four years of observation. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Real per capita payment for adult recall services decreased by 0.3 percent in the year bundling was implemented (1988), but by the end of the study period such payments had increased 4.8 percent relative to pre-bundling levels. Multiple regression analysis assessed the role of patient and provider variables in the upward trend of per capita payments. The following variables were significant in explaining 37 percent of the variation in utilization over the period of observation: subscriber employment location; ever having received periodontal scaling or ever having received restorative services; regular user; dentist's school of graduation; and interactions involving year, service type, and regular user status. CONCLUSIONS: The volume and intensity of services received by adult patients increased when fee constraints were imposed on dentists. Future efforts to contain dental expenditures through fee schedule design will need to take this into consideration. Issues for future dental services research include provider billing practices, utilization among frequent attenders, and outcomes evaluation particularly with regard to periodontal care and replacement of restorations.

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Selected References

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