Access Is Necessary but Not Sufficient: Factors Influencing Delay and Avoidance of Health Care Services

Kyle T. Smith, Denise Monti, Nageen Mir, Ellen Peters, Renuka Tipirneni, Mary C. Politi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background: Despite recently expanded access to health insurance, consumers still face barriers to using their coverage to obtain needed health care. Objective: To examine the characteristics of those who delay or avoid health care due to costs. Methods: Participants were recruited via Amazon MTurk and completed a survey assessing demographic characteristics, financial toxicity, health care minimizer-maximizer tendencies, health insurance knowledge, numeracy, delaying/avoiding any care, and delaying/avoiding six common health care services (three preventive and three nonpreventive services). Validated measures were used when available. Delay/avoidance behaviors were categorized into delaying/avoiding any care, preventive care, and nonpreventive care. Logistic regression models examined 1) financial toxicity, 2) minimizer-maximizer tendencies, 3) numeracy, 4) health insurance knowledge, and 5) knowledge of preventive care coverage separately on three forms of delay/avoidance behaviors, controlling for chronic conditions, insurance status, and/or income where appropriate. Results: Of 518 respondents, 470 did not fail attention-check questions and were used in analyses. Forty-five percent of respondents reported delaying/avoiding care due to cost. Multivariable analyses found that financial toxicity was related to delaying/avoiding any care (odds ratio [OR] = 0.884, P < 0.001), preventive care (OR = 0.906, P < 0.001), and nonpreventive care (OR = 0.901, P < 0.001). A tendency to minimize seeking health care (OR = 0.734, P < 0.001) and lower subjective numeracy (OR = 0.794, P = 0.023) were related to delaying/avoiding any care. General health insurance knowledge (OR = 0.989, P = 0.023) and knowledge of preventive care coverage (OR = 0.422, P < 0.001) were related to delaying/avoiding preventive care. Conclusions: Many people delay or avoid health care due to costs, even when insured. Results suggest that there may be different reasons individuals delay or avoid preventive and nonpreventive care. Findings may inform interventions to educate consumers and support discussions about health care costs to facilitate appropriate health care utilization.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMDM Policy and Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • financial toxicity
  • health insurance literacy
  • healthcare utilization
  • numeracy


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