Background: Navigating the US healthcare system requires considerable health insurance literacy, especially for adults with disabilities. Limited health insurance literacy may lead to suboptimal treatment, leading to unmet need for medical care. Objective: We examined whether unmet need for medical care among Medicare beneficiaries differs by health insurance literacy and disability status. Methods: Using data from the 2010–2019 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, we identified 48,989 Medicare beneficiaries, including those in traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Our outcomes were three measures of unmet need for medical care. Our key independent variables were health insurance literacy and disability status. For each outcome, we estimated the adjusted rates of reporting unmet need for medical care by health insurance literacy and disability while controlling for individual-level characteristics. Results: Unmet need for medical care was higher among Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities across all outcomes, but the highest rates were among those with disabilities and limited health insurance literacy (27.4% [95% CI: 24.9–29.9] for experiencing delayed care, 17.7% [95% CI: 15.6–19.9] for experiencing trouble in getting needed care, and 20.8% [95% CI: 18.5–23.1] for not seeing a doctor despite medical need). Notably, there was an increasing trend in experiencing delayed care and trouble getting needed care among Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities over time, especially for those with limited health insurance literacy. Conclusions: Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities and limited health insurance literacy face disproportionate unmet need for medical care. Policies are needed to ensure that these beneficiaries have access to clear and accessible health insurance information.
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- Health insurance literacy
- Unmet need