Nearly half of the nation's non-elderly adults with disabilities go without equipment and other items due to cost, according to a recent survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The report, Understanding the Health Care Needs and Experiences of People with Disabilities: Findings from a 2003 Survey, found that people with disabilities who don't have health insurance face the greatest challenges. Although most adults with disabilities do have some form of insurance, 69 percent of those without health insurance report having no regular doctor, and 67 percent go without needed equipment, such as wheelchairs.

Among survey respondents with any type of health insurance, those with Medicare alone — and no supplemental coverage — reported the highest rates of serious cost-related problems. Nearly seven in 10 of those relying only on Medicare reported going without medical equipment and other needed items due to cost. The survey showed equipment plays a critical role in the lives of many disabled, with 45 percent of those with a physical disability relying on some form of equipment, such as motorized wheelchairs, to help them manage their basic needs at home and work. Despite these various sources of support, 42 percent of the sample participants reported falling while getting in or out of bed or a chair because no one was available to help. In addition, 21 percent of those who use equipment to manage their disabilities say they have serious difficulties paying for it.

Within the survey sample, more than 1,500 people aged 18 to 64, 44 percent are covered by Medicaid, including 14 percent with both Medicaid and Medicare coverage; 43 percent are covered by Medicare, with 14 percent having private supplemental coverage; and 33 percent by some form of private coverage.

For a copy of the report, visit www.kff.org.

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