More than one in five American adults, or 21%, without access to a vehicle or public transportation decided to forgo medical care in the last year, a new report found.
The report, published Thursday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute, relies on June 2022 data from the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey.
The researchers discovered that of those who lacked access to a vehicle but had public transportation, 9% skipped medical care. About 5% of all American adults went without care due to transportation issues.
When broken down by race, income and insurance, these numbers varied, however. About 8% of Black adults and 7% of Hispanic adults skipped care because of transportation challenges, compared to 4% of White adults and 2% of Asian adults. In addition, 14% of adults with low family incomes passed on care, as did 12% of adults with public insurance.
Adults with a disability also struggled in accessing care: 17% skipped medical services due to a lack of transportation, more than three times as likely as all adults, the report found.
“Many things influence access to healthcare, with lack of transportation being a major hurdle for millions of families,” said Gina R. Hijjawi, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in a news release. “We see that individuals with disabilities, low-income individuals, and people of color are disproportionately impacted by limited public transit.”
About 91% of American adults have access to a vehicle, according to the report. However, this also changes by different subgroups: 87% of Hispanic individuals, 81% of Black adults, 78% of low-income adults and 83% of adults with a disability have access to a car.
“Transportation barriers to healthcare disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic/Latinx adults and those with low incomes, disabilities, public health insurance coverage, residence in rural areas, and lack of household access to a vehicle,” said Laura Barrie Smith, research associate at the Urban Institute, in a statement.
The findings show the need for improved public transportation, including buses, subways, rails, light rails and ferries, the report states. Not only would more public transit make it easier for people to receive healthcare, but it would also reduce air pollution and vehicle crashes.
“This analysis makes clear that access to public transit is associated with improved access to healthcare. Policymakers should consider expanding transportation benefits in health insurance plans to improve access to healthcare,” Hijjawi said.
Photo: metamorworks, Getty Images