Brief Barriers to Accessing Medical Equipment and Other Health Services and Supports within Households of Adults with Disabilities
Michael Karpman, Sarah Morriss, Dulce Gonzalez
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Using nationally representative survey data, we assessed the prevalence of delayed and unmet needs for medical equipment, supplies, and other vital services and supports among nonelderly adults with disabilities and members of their households. We also examined the types of equipment and supplies households had difficulty obtaining and the reasons for delayed or unmet needs.


People with disabilities face persistent inequities in access to high-quality, affordable health care. These inequities include challenges obtaining consistent access to medical equipment and supplies and other health services and supports that are critical for their health and well-being and ability to live independently in their communities. Though people with disabilities of all ages are affected by these gaps in the health care system, nationally representative data on the experiences of adults under age 65 are limited.


  • In June 2022, 15 percent of adults with disabilities reported that they or someone in their household delayed getting or did not get the medical equipment or supplies they needed in the past 12 months. Some adults with disabilities also reported that they or a household member experienced delayed or unmet needs for physical or occupational therapy (12 percent), home health care (5 percent), personal assistance services (4 percent), and speech therapy (3 percent).
  • Among households of adults with disabilities in which someone delayed getting or did not get needed medical equipment or supplies, the most common types of equipment and supplies that were delayed or not received included eyeglasses, breathing equipment, mobility equipment, diabetes equipment and supplies, and hearing aids.
  • The most frequently reported reasons for delayed or unmet medical equipment and supply needs among these households were related to difficulties using health insurance coverage. These reasons included the equipment or supplies not being covered by the health plan (52 percent), difficulty securing health plan authorization (47 percent), and being unable to afford the cost sharing (47 percent). About one in three also reported difficulty obtaining a prescription from a provider, more than one in four reported equipment or supplies being unavailable because of supply chain shortages, and just over one in five reported a lack of health insurance.
  • Delayed and unmet needs for medical equipment and supplies, skilled therapy services, home health care, and personal assistance added to the broader range of health care access challenges facing adults with disabilities. Disabled adults were more than twice as likely as nondisabled adults to forgo health care because of costs, difficulty using coverage, and difficulty finding or getting to health care providers.


Our analysis draws on June 2022 data from the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS), a nationally representative survey of adults ages 18 to 64 living in households. Survey questions on delayed and unmet needs were developed in collaboration with members of a community advisory board who have lived experience with disabilities and who serve as advocates for people with disabilities.

Research Areas Health and health care Disability equity policy
Tags Disability and long-term care Health equity
Policy Centers Health Policy Center
Research Methods Data collection Quantitative data analysis