Health United States 2020-2021

Unmet need

In Health, United States, unmet need is defined as delay or nonreceipt of needed medical care, nonreceipt of needed prescription drugs, or nonreceipt of needed dental care during the past 12 months due to cost. The three measures of unmet need presented in Health, United States are based on data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

Delay or nonreceipt of needed medical care in the past 12 months due to cost

Starting in 2019, this measure was based on the following two questions from the Sample Adult or Sample Child questionnaires: “During the past 12 months, was there any time when [you/your child] needed medical care, but did not get it because of the cost?” and “During the past 12 months, [have you delayed getting medical care/has medical care been delayed for your child] because of the cost?” From 1997 to 2018, this measure was based on the following two questions from the Family Core questionnaire: “During the past 12 months, was there any time when [you/someone in the family] needed medical care but did not get it because [you/the family] couldn’t afford it?” and “During the past 12 months, [have you delayed seeking medical care/has medical care been delayed for anyone in the family] because of worry about the cost?” The Family respondents to the Family Core questionnaire answered for other family members in the survey.

Nonreceipt of needed prescription drugs in the past 12 months due to cost

Starting in 2019, NHIS respondents to the Sample Adult and Sample Child questionnaires were asked, “During the past 12 months, was there any time when [you/your child] needed prescription medication, but did not get it because of the cost?” From 1997 to 2018, respondents to the Sample Adult and Sample Child questionnaires were asked, “During the past 12 months, was there any time when [you/your child] needed [prescription medicine] but didn’t get it because you couldn’t afford it?”

Nonreceipt of needed dental care in the past 12 months due to cost

Starting in 2019, NHIS respondents to the Sample Adult and Sample Child questionnaires were asked, “During the past 12 months, was there any time when [you/your child]  needed dental care, but did not get it because of the cost?” From 1997 to 2018, respondents to the Sample Adult and Sample Child questionnaires were asked, “During the past 12 months, was there any time when [you/your child] needed [dental care (including checkups)] but didn’t get it because you couldn’t afford it?” Nonreceipt of dental care in the past 12 months due to cost was not asked for children under age 2 years from 1997 through 2018 or under age 1 starting in 2019. Estimates for 2019 and beyond were restricted to people aged 2 years and over to align with 1997–2018 estimates.

Page last reviewed: August 12, 2022