A new program aims to help the thousands of people across El Paso County who have no dental insurance by discounting their care from 5 to 50 percent.

The Dental Discount Card Program, announced Tuesday by the El Paso County commissioners, offers discounts to dentists across the county for people and families who pay a monthly or annual rate.

"It's a discount program, not really insurance," said El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark.

Only La Plata County also offers the program in Colorado. It comes at a time when 35 percent of people in El Paso County have no dental insurance, according to the Colorado Health Institute. Nearly 40 percent of Coloradans have no dental insurance.

It's the second health care discount offered in the county in the past four years. In 2009, the county instituted a similar program for prescription drugs, which has saved 19,908 residents a combined $498,151 as of Tuesday, according to Commissioner Dennis Hisey.

The programs are open to all El Paso County residents, regardless of income. They come as a benefit to the county for its membership in the National Association of Counties - a nationwide lobbying and advocacy group.

The county pays $10,059 a year to be a member, said Jennifer Brown, a county spokeswoman.

Individuals who wish to participate in the dental discount program can pay a monthly fee of $6.95 or $59 per year, while families pay $8.95 a month or $69 a year.

Those paying the membership fee receive a card that can be used at at the offices of participating dentists and specialists. That includes doctors specializing in endodontics, oral surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and prosthodontics.

Each dentist decides how much of a discount to offer, so rates vary.

It's meant to address one of the biggest reasons that people elect not to seek dental work - prohibitive costs, said Cal Utke, president of the Colorado Dental Association.


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