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December 17, 2003

Lack of or inadequate insurance withholds services to disabled

From: BioWorld Online, United States - Dec 17, 2003

By Kevin New

Medical Device Daily Washington Editor

WASHINGTON - Many non-elderly U.S. residents go without durable medical equipment or delay receiving needed care. The reason, according to a study published last week, is that many of them lack insurance or, if they do have some form of private or governmental coverage, it does not pay for some of the most critically needed equipment and services.

The study, published by the Kaiser Family Foundation (Oakland, California), is based on 1,505 interviews of U.S. adults between Jan. 9 and Feb. 11 of 2003. The adults were between ages 18 and 64 and have a permanent physical and/or mental disability.

Almost half - 46% - forego medical equipment because of cost, and 37% delay receiving care because of cost, the study found. More than a third 36% reported skipping medications or splitting medications, and the same amount reported spending less on various basic services, such as food and heat, to pay for healthcare.

Nowhere is the case for providing adequate insurance for people who need it more compelling than when it comes to people with disabilities. This study shows that when the disabled fall through the health insurance cracks, they fall hard," Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in a statement.

Seniors have been the most likely victims of skyrocketing healthcare costs, but the study points out a new group affected by rising costs as well, a study author pointed out.

"It is well known that seniors often skip doses, split pills or delay equipment purchases to make ends meet. This study shows that younger adults with disabilities do so to an even greater degree - particularly those on Medicare who lack drug coverage," said Tricia Neuman, vice president at Kaiser and co-author of the study.

Only 5% of the respondents lacked any health insurance, the study concluded. Of those, 69% said they did not have a primary care physician; 67% said they lacked needed medical equipment, such as a wheelchair or hearing aid; 66% postponed care because of cost; and 60% split pills or skipped medication doses.

For adults who only have Medicare for healthcare coverage, the results were similar. A majority - 69% - reported going without medical equipment; 60% postponed receiving care because of cost; 53% spent less on basic services to pay for healthcare; and 52% said they had serious problems paying for prescription drugs.

Respondents were asked to choose an issue that should be a top priority for the government, and 41% said improved prescription drug coverage should be it; 26% said helping people work while keeping disability benefits; 14% said simpler disability benefits applications; 11% said assisting with the cost of home care or medical equipment; and 5% said improved transportation for the disabled.

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