woman in wheelchair with friend

“More than 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities report having a difficult time accessing health care and often find that doctors’ offices refuse to accommodate them,” Kristin Samuelson writes over at the Northwestern University website. “Now, a new Northwestern Medicine study of national practices reports that physicians may be choosing to deny care to people with disabilities, and some use discretionary excuses to strategically discharge them from their practice. Scientists from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues from University of Massachusetts and Harvard Medical School, conducted focus groups with physicians drawn from a national database. Physicians who participated in these groups expressed bias toward people with disabilities, and a substantial number of participants reported that they make strategic choices to deny care to people with disabilities, the study found. This includes making statements such as ‘I am not taking new patients,’ ‘I do not take your insurance,’ or telling the patients they need specialized care and therefore, ‘I am not the doctor for you.’ ‘Our body of work suggests that physician bias and discriminatory attitudes may contribute to the health disparities that people with disabilities experience,’ said corresponding study author Tara Lagu, director of the Institute for Public Health and Medicine’s Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research at Feinberg and a professor of hospital medicine and medical social sciences. ‘We need to address the attitudes and behavior that perpetuate the unequal access experienced by our most vulnerable patients.’ Additionally, physicians in the study described a lack of knowledge about how to provide accommodations for people with disabilities, and some expressed adversarial attitudes toward the ADA, saying the legislation ‘works against physicians.'” Kristin Samuelson, “Widespread bias, discrimination directed toward people with disabilities who seek health care,” Northwestern Now.

Photo by Judita Tamošiūnaitė

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...