Health Care Issues for people with disabilities in USA

In general, the top two reasons given by people without disabilities for not getting medical care is that the treatment’s not covered by insurance or that it costs too much money.  There was a disability healthcare access brief published in 2007 that also went on to say that in terms of statistics, 28% of insured people with disabilities reported needing particular therapies, equipment or medications that were not covered by their health plans compared to only 7% of those people without disabilities.  In this report they gave several examples from parents and other individuals and for example, one parent reported that their annual out of pocket expenses were approximately $15,000 for healthcare needs for her child who had a disability because the family’s insurance covered only specific brands of supplies such as for example, diapers to which her child was allergic.  19% of people with disabilities reported they did not receive medical care needed in the past year compared to only 6% of non disabled people.  Interestingly, they also did some checking of athletes at the 2003 Special Olympics.  They looked at 3500 athletes, all of whom had intellectual disabilities and what they found was that over a third of them had obvious signs of tooth decay.  12% reported tooth or mouth pain and that’s compared to only 2% of all U. S. employed adults who go to the dentist.  A third of the athletes in the winter and summer games of the Special Olympics had never received an eye exam.  So you get the sense that, for example people with disabilities particularly developmental disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, need access to healthcare need access to vision care and it’s oftentimes not there.  One issue with that too is that these individuals may sometimes need a specialist to conduct basic vision and hearing tests but that insurance companies will refuse to refer the members who have such disabilities to an out of network specialist because the insurance covers only in network providers who may lack experience or familiarity in working with people who have a particular type of disability.

We should also note that the severity of one’s disability makes a difference.  Not surprisingly, the more severe your disability, the more likely you are to have needs that aren’t covered by insurance.  And in fact, again, compared to the non disabled population, people with severe disabilities are almost four times more likely to have inadequate health insurance compared to people in general and even people with slight disabilities.  40% of people with severe disabilities aren’t getting their insurance needs met compared to only 11% of those with slight disabilities. 

There was a survey done in 2003 sponsored by the Kaiser Foundation and this survey particularly looked at some of the issues faced by people who have disabilities and they looked at people who are non elderly – they view that as people under the age of 65.  The next few slides give you a brief summary of some of the information some of the data that they found.  Looking at this first slide here in terms of problems paying for selective health care services, notice that of their respondents and they had over 1500 people respond to this, all of whom had permanent physical and/or mental disabilities, they found that 32%, almost a third of them, reported significant serious problems paying for prescription drugs, a slightly lesser amount reported concerns with regard to paying for dental care.  You can read the rest of the slide yourself, but each of these areas, prescription drugs, dental care, equipment, were areas of concern for people with disabilities in terms of their ability to pay for it. 

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