Adults Forgoing Healthcare Due to Transportation Issues

May 3, 2023
A recently published brief from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute found that more than one in five adults skipped needed medical care due to lack of access to a vehicle or public transportation

The Princeton, N.J.-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Washington-based Urban Institute published a brief on April 26 entitled “More than One in Five Adults with Limited Public Transit Access Forgo Health Care Because of Transportation Barriers.”

The brief says that “Transportation barriers, which disproportionately affect individuals and families with low incomes, create access barriers to care and can be detrimental to long-term health.”

“Private motorized vehicles are the primary form of transportation in the US, but many people— especially those who live in urban areas, have low incomes, or are Black and Hispanic/Latinx—rely on public transit (Clark 2017; Gimie et al. 2022),” the brief adds. “Research shows that public transportation expansions improve access to health care, especially for people covered by Medicaid (Smith et al. 2021). While substantial increases in the availability of telehealth since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic likely reduced transportation barriers for some types of health care, especially mental health and primary care services, telehealth is not accessible to all adults and cannot substitute for in-person care for all health care needs (Patel et al. 2020; Smith and Blavin 2021; Zhang et al. 2021). More work is needed to understand national patterns in the role of transportation and public transit in access to medical care and, ultimately, the importance of transportation for health equity (Heaps, Abramsohn, and Skillen 2021).”

The brief used data from June 2022 from the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS). Key highlights include:

  • Twenty-one percent of U.S. adults who do not have access to a vehicle or public transportation went without needed medical care in 2022
  • Nine percent of individuals who do not have access to a vehicle but live in an area with access to public transportation did not go without needed medical care
  • Five percent of U.S. adults said they went without needed healthcare due to transportation barriers
  • Black adults (eight percent) with low family incomes (14 percent), and adults with public health insurance (12 percent) were more likely to go without needed care due to transportation issues
  • Adults with a disability (17 percent) were more than three times as likely to report missing needed care due to transportation issues

The brief concludes by saying that “Reliable access to transportation, whether it be a vehicle or neighborhood public transit, is a social driver of health in the United States.”