Delayed and Unmet Need for Medical Care Among Publicly Insured Adults With Disabilities : Medical Care

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Delayed and Unmet Need for Medical Care Among Publicly Insured Adults With Disabilities

Henning-Smith, Carrie MPH, MSW*; McAlpine, Donna PhD*; Shippee, Tetyana PhD*; Priebe, Michael MD, MPH

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Medical Care 51(11):p 1015-1019, November 2013. | DOI: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3182a95d65



While Medicaid is an important source of insurance coverage for persons with disabilities, barriers remain to accessing care for this population.


This study addresses 3 research questions: (1) do adults with disabilities experience greater unmet need/delayed care?; (2) do barriers related to cost, providers, or structure vary by disability status?; and (3) do barriers mediate the relationship between disability and access to care?

Research Design: 

Data were obtained from a 2008 stratified random sample of Minnesota Health Care Program’s nonelderly adult enrollees (n=1880). The survey was administered by mail, with a telephone follow-up for nonresponders.


Disability is defined by self-report. Access to care is measured by reported delayed and unmet need for medical care within the past year. Respondents were asked about their experiences with a variety of cost-related, provider-related, and structural barriers to care.


Respondents with a disability were more likely to experience delayed (40%) and unmet need (23%) for medical care than persons without disabilities (24% and 10%, respectively). Persons with disabilities also reported multiple barriers to health care, especially structural barriers, such as making a timely appointment and accessing transportation (74% vs. 59%). The greater likelihood of facing a structural barrier partially explained increased risk of delayed or unmet care among adults with disabilities.


Disparities in access to health care based on disability status remain even for persons who have insurance. These disparities deserve further research and policy attention to better address the particular needs of this population.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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