The association between insurance type and cost-related delay in care: a survey

Author Department

Healthcare Quality; Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date




Massachusetts has insurance rates similar to those projected under the Affordable Care Act, but many of the state's patients are insured through private insurance plans with high out-of-pocket costs. We aimed to explore the relationship between insurance type (private vs public) and delays in care due to cost, stratified by income.


Cross-sectional study.


We conducted a study of English-speaking adults recruited from the waiting rooms of the emergency department or outpatient clinics of a large healthcare system in western Massachusetts. Our primary outcome was the association between insurance type and cost-related delay in care, stratified by income.


Of 800 individuals approached, 619 (77%) completed the survey. Participants were 60.6% male and 40.2% white, 37.2% Hispanic, and 12.6% black. The majority (61.4%) of those surveyed had public insurance, 34.1% had private insurance, and 4.5% were uninsured. Overall, 13.3% reported delays in seeking care that were related to cost. The impact of insurance on delay of care differed significantly by income tertile (P = .02): in the middle-income group ($12,500 to <$25,000 per person annually), privately insured respondents were more likely to delay care due to cost compared with publicly insured subjects (15.6% vs 8.1%; odds ratio [OR], 4.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.9-10.2, unadjusted; OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 0.9-5.8, adjusted).


Cost-related delays in care are prevalent despite the presence of an insurance mandate. Middle-income, privately insured patients report more cost-related delays in care compared with publicly insured patients with similar incomes.