Navigating Healthcare Access and Coverage with a Disability

By Adrian Johansen

NNavigating healthcare coverage and access isn't easy for anyone. When living with a disability, understanding exactly how your coverage and situation interact can make navigating healthcare even more of a chore.

Fortunately, however, there are ways you can better manage your physical and mental health situation to get the best results. By finding coverage that meets a range of needs, then understanding where gaps in coverage occur, you can better secure your healthcare situation.

Below are the tips and tricks you should know when it comes to managing healthcare coverage and access while living with disabilities.

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Finding Physical and Mental Care Coverage

Disabilities are common. In fact, an estimated 61 million Americans have a disability, with many more experiencing a disability at some point in their lifetimes. These disabilities range in nature from physical to mental impairments and, in many cases, can overlap.

The problem, however, is that physical disabilities sometimes overshadow the mental health needs that can be just as essential. The CDC estimates that 17.4 million adults with disabilities experience frequent mental distress that equates to poor health behaviors and a greater need for mental health services, and yet these factors are often overlooked.

One story shared by Heather Kerstatter, an activist for mental health care, highlights the scope of the problem. When Kerstatter visited an emergency room seeking help for suicidal ideation, she was turned away because hospital representatives felt her physical disability made it impossible for her to be a danger to herself. It took Kerstatter another three weeks to get help.

Additionally, there are the problems that abound from mental health facilities not being prepared to treat patients with physical disabilities. From untrained nursing staff to gaps in insurance coverage, you may encounter issues that make it hard to find coverage.

However, there is help out there for navigating care gaps to find the coverage and access to care you need.

Navigating Care Gaps

Navigating gaps in healthcare coverage with a disability takes more insight into the insurance market and public assistance than many of us can deal with. Healthcare can be complicated, but there are expert resources out there to help us secure better care. Finding this help and overcoming healthcare hurdles begins with exploring your current situation. Then, you can take the steps needed to secure better care.

Here are some useful tips for navigating healthcare coverage while living with a disability:

  1. Understand your current coverage. Even if you currently have coverage through Medicare or Medicaid, it is important to understand what these programs do and do not cover. For example, Medicare may offer basic hospitalization coverage, but without a Medigap policy, you could be left paying copays and deductibles.
  2. Examine your options. Your current coverage gaps may not cover all the mental health care you need. However, you can get disability coverage for mental health issues as well. Examine your resources, insurance and even crowdfunding options to find the help you need.
  3. Compile your resources. A host of helpful services are out there, ready for you to reach out to. Explore databases like MyHealthFinder or MedlinePlus for trusted information tailored to your needs.
  4. Consider a move. While moving definitely won't be an option for everyone, finding a city with closer proximity to higher-quality resources will help you access the care you need. Factors like the availability of special education teachers, cost of living, affordability and even weather make some cities better than others for folks with disabilities.
  5.  Get help from an advocate. Everyone needs an advocate sometimes. Fortunately, there are agencies made specifically to help you manage your healthcare needs. Explore this Administration for Community Living resource for more information.

No matter your situation, navigating care solutions doesn't have to be as complicated as it might at first seem. Some resources include non-profit and government programs that can assist you in finding the right care. Additionally, alternative living situations and care advocates may make it much simpler to manage your health solutions. The intersection of mental and physical health when it comes to disabilities can be tricky to navigate, but these tips and resources are here to help.

Securing Your Healthcare

The healthcare system is far from perfect. It leaves many struggling to deal with insurance coverage, medical bills and finding the institutions that will help them manage care. Unfortunately, even the attempts to reform Medicare have led to their distinct problems.

When striving to manage these challenges, it helps to have every possible resource in your corner. Beginning with an assessment of your current coverage (or lack of), you can start down the path towards better care. Then, all kinds of programs, non-profits and advocacy groups can help you navigate the gaps.

Begin securing your own healthcare today by taking an inventory of all the help available to you. Better care—no matter your situation—can be right around the corner.

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