Study shows stark disparities in how adults with disabilities are treated in health care settings
An analysis from the Urban Institute, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reveals stark disparities in the treatment of adults with disabilities in health care settings, while applying for public benefits, and at work.
In 2022, adults with disabilities were more than twice as likely as those without disabilities to report unfair treatment when receiving health care, working, or applying for public benefits, according to the report. Approximately 40% of adults with disabilities reported experiencing unfair treatment because of their disabilities or other personal characteristics. This is in stark contrast to the 18% of adults without disabilities who reported similar experiences.
The consequences of this unfair treatment were far-reaching. Among adults with disabilities who reported unfair treatment in health care settings, about 71% faced disruptions in their care. This included delays in receiving necessary care (54%), not receiving required care at all (50%), and non-adherence to clinician recommendations (31%).
When dealing with social service settings, unfair treatment resulted in difficulties in obtaining public benefits for about 71% of affected adults with disabilities. This included delays in benefits (45%) and a complete failure to secure them (57%). In workplaces, nearly half (46%) of adults with disabilities who encountered unfair treatment began searching for new employment due to the way they were treated.
The analysis also pointed out racial disparities among adults with disabilities, as Black and Hispanic individuals were more likely to report unfair treatment in all three settings due to their race, ethnicity, country of origin, or primary language when compared to their White counterparts.
“These findings show that experiences of unfair treatment were common among people with disabilities – causing disruptions in health care and employment, and delays in accessing public benefits to help them meet their basic needs,” said Dulce Gonzalez, Urban Institute research associate, in a statement. “Addressing the structural barriers and biases that undermine the health and wellbeing of disabled people will require intentional and sustained public and private sector responses developed in partnership with people with disabilities.”
Rachele Tardi, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson, agreed, adding, “Despite more than 30 years of law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities, unequal treatment persists.”