Prevalence and reasons for delaying and foregoing necessary care by the presence and type of disability among working-age adults

Amanda Reichard, Ph.D., Michelle Stransky, Ph.D., Kimberly Phillips, M.S., Monica McClain, Ph.D., Charles Drum, J.D., Ph.D.

Disability and Health Journal, January 2017, Volume 10, Issue 1, Pages 39–47



While it is commonly accepted that disparities in unmet need for care vary by age, race/ethnicity, income, education, and access to care, literature documenting unmet needs experienced by adults with different types of disabilities is developing.


The main objective was to determine whether subgroups of people with disabilities are more likely than people without disabilities to delay/forgo necessary care, in general and among the insured.


We used pooled Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data (2004–2010) to examine delaying or forgoing medical, dental, and pharmacy care among five disability subgroups (physical, cognitive, visual, hearing, multiple) and the non-disabled population. Logistic regression was conducted to examine delayed/forgone care, controlling for sociodemographic, health, and health care factors.


Over 13% of all working-age adults delayed/forwent necessary care; lack of insurance was the strongest predictor of unmet needs. Among the insured, disability subgroups were greater than two times more likely to report delayed/forgone care than adults without disabilities. Insured working-age adults with multiple chronic conditions and those with ADL/IADL assistance needs had higher odds of delayed or forgone care than their peers without these characteristics. Reasons related to affordability were most often listed as leading to unmet needs, regardless of disability.


Although insurance status most strongly predicted unmet needs for care, many people with insurance delayed/forewent necessary care. Even among the insured, all disability subgroups had significantly greater likelihood of having to delay/forgo care than those without disabilities. Differences also existed between the disability subgroups. Cost was most frequently cited reason for unmet needs.