Health care is important for people with disabilities in terms of maintaining basic functional status and promoting health. However, empirical studies on health care utilization by this population in South Korea are rare.
The purpose of this study was to examine the characteristics of people with disabilities and to evaluate the relationship between the presence and severity of disabilities and health care utilization.
We analyzed the 2005–2011 Korea Welfare Panel Study data, and the final sample included 38,598 observations over seven years. Health care utilization was measured by health screening attendance, number of outpatient physician visits, and inpatient days. To examine the impact of disabilities on health care utilization, random-effects logistic regression and negative binomial regression models were adopted.
About 3.3% of the sample had physical disabilities, as defined by the Korean disability registration system. In the sample, the prevalence of chronic diseases and percentage of poor self-rated health were higher in people with disabilities than in people without disabilities. The results of the regression analyses showed that people with severe disabilities had a lower probability of health screening attendance, and they also had significantly longer inpatient stays for health care services.
These findings imply poor accessibility of preventive or outpatient health care services for people with severe disabilities in Korea, and suggest that barriers should be removed. Further studies are necessary for effective health care provision to meet the complex needs of people with disabilities.