Barriers to Medical Care for Disabled People


Americans with disabilities face a variety of barriers to accessing health care. These include a lack of insurance coverage, health promotion and disease prevention programs and services, and accessible medical facilities.

These issues must be addressed as part comprehensive health care reform. NCD recommends that Federal agencies responsible for health promotion and disease prevention work together to ensure that people with disabilities are part of all research, program development and public education.

Coverage for Health Insurance

Disabled people often experience health disparities and specific problems in gaining access to medical care, including coverage for specialty care, long-term care, prescription medications, durable medical equipment, and assistive technologies. They may also have cost-sharing and benefits limits that prevent them receiving the health-preserving care that they need.

Working-age adults with disabilities are far more likely than those without disabilities to report access problems, including problems paying medical bills (32.0% vs 13.4%), inability to pay for medical care (18.8% vs 7.3%), delaying needed care due to affordability concerns (11.7% vs 4.9%), and not receiving medical care because of cost concerns (15.3% vs 4.9%). The odds of reporting an access problem were lower among those with disabilities immediately following the ACA.

Third-Party Reimbursement

Third-party reimbursement is a type of reimbursement that occurs when an insurance company, governmental agency or other entity reimburses a service provider for services rendered to a patient. This means that the patient is the first party, the medical facility or service provider is the second party and the third party is an insurance company or governmental entity, such as Medicare or Medicaid.

Despite some limitations, both Medicaid and Medicare provide important health insurance coverage for many people with disabilities. These programs can be used to pay for long-term care, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, assistive devices, and specialty care.

Many people with disability support services Melbourne feel that their health care is not fair or high-quality. This can be due to long wait times for office visits, lack of access to specialized physicians and other professionals, and difficulties with communication (e.g., sign language interpreters).

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Programs

In addition to providing medical care, disabled people often require health promotion and disease prevention programs to improve their overall physical, mental, and social health. These programs can include group exercise, smoking cessation, self-help, or AA-type groups for substance abuse and mammography screening.

Among the disability population, women with disabilities have particular problems accessing and participating in these programs, as do deaf and hard of hearing people. These challenges are a result of a complex mix of historical and structural factors.

Access to Medical Facilities

People with disabilities tend to experience poorer health and use medical services at a higher rate than those without disabilities. They are also less aware of the risk factors for disease and participate less in preventive screening.

Despite this, the health care system does not provide adequate access to services and facilities that meet the needs of disabled people. This problem directly impacts the quality of their care and can only be solved by changes in public policy.

Two key Federal civil rights laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, prohibit disability discrimination in health care services and facilities. Under the ADA, health care entities must make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures so that people with disabilities can enjoy full and equal access to health care. They must also provide auxiliary aids, remove architectural barriers that hinder accessibility, and allow patients with disabilities access to individualized accommodations when they are required.

Communication Barriers

Many people with disabilities or who are deaf are unable communicate effectively with their health care providers. This can lead to miscommunication or misunderstandings that could negatively impact patient’s quality care.

These barriers can often be overcome by redesigning medical facilities and resourcing them to make them more accessible for people with disabilities. However, addressing these barriers is a complex and difficult process.

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