NCD conducted a study, “The Current State of Health Care for People with Disabilities,” to address the many challenges facing people with disabilities. The study aims to inform Congress and the Administration about the most pressing health care needs of people with disabilities. In addition to policymakers, health care providers and other stakeholders, NCD identified specific recommendations to improve health care access for people with disabilities. The recommendations are located in chapter eight, section H.
Despite the fact that the United States health care system is highly fragmented and prone to inequities, it has been found that some people with disabilities face specific and ongoing access problems. While they may not have health insurance, these individuals often do not receive adequate health coverage and health care coverage. Further, they are often denied health care services, which can lead to additional health problems. This is a major reason why they cannot access quality health care.
Barriers to health care for people with disabilities include lack of understanding about disabilities and their unique needs. Some health care providers may incorrectly assume that people with disabilities do not experience pain or need anesthesia. Others may assume that people with disabilities are incapable of reading or speaking standard English, and women with disabilities often do not need reproductive care or counseling. The result of these encounters is often a damaged relationship between patient and provider, and the lack of access to health care can even discourage people from seeking treatment in the first place.
Medicaid is often a better option than commercial insurance. In one study of parents with children with disabilities, researchers found that those with Medicaid had difficulty accessing specialty care three times more frequently than their counterparts with private insurance. But if Medicaid is secondary coverage, those with Medicaid secondary coverage reported fewer problems accessing specialty care. In addition, Medicaid is threatened by budget cuts each year. Even Medicaid beneficiaries with disabilities may struggle to afford the costs of essential health care.
The federal government and disability advocates have long warned against ignoring this issue. While disability is the largest consumer group of health care in the United States, it has far-reaching implications for society. If the disability issue is not addressed, it will result in a lack of health care access for millions of Americans. And that is unacceptable! The disability crisis is not going away. And there are several things that can be done to increase access for people with disabilities.
Physical and mental health care providers who do not speak a person’s language may have difficulty communicating with them. Standard office visits may not allow for comprehensive discussions of health issues. The providers may not be able to explain complicated medical issues in a way that the person can understand. These barriers prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in community activities and accessing quality health care. When these issues are addressed, they can improve health care access and quality of life for all Americans.