Becoming Visible: The ADA's Impact on Healthcare for Persons with Disabilities

39 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2008

See all articles by Mary Crossley

Mary Crossley

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Date Written: September, 25 2008


This Article will adopt the perspective of individuals with disabilities in their encounters with the health care finance and delivery system in the United States, and will pose the question of what the past decade has shown the ADA to mean (or not mean) for those individuals' ability to seek, receive, and pay for effective health care services. To that end, this Article will provide an overview of three broad areas on which the ADA has had varying degrees of impact.

Part II of the Article will examine how the ADA has affected the rights of an individual with a disability who is seeking medical or dental treatment. Health care providers' direct refusals to treat and failures to supply necessary auxiliary aids are the most obvious instances of disability discrimination in the health care context, and it is in this context that the ADA has had probably its greatest effect. Less clear has been the Act's applicability to claims that an individual with a disability has received different and substandard medical care. Part III will discuss the ADA's impact on cost-containment efforts in the health care field, ranging from the application of the ADA to managed care practices adopted by private and public payers to the statute's implication in health care rationing schemes. Part IV will turn to attempts to apply the ADA to health insurance, an area in which the courts appear increasingly resistant to allowing the ADA a significant role in regulating health insurance.

Ultimately, Part V will conclude that the ADA's impact on health care for persons with disabilities has been mixed. It has played a major role in addressing the most overt instances of discriminatory behavior, but its impact on less obvious instances of potentially discriminatory cost-cutting practices and on health insurance has been more muted and indirect. Nonetheless, I will conclude that the passage of the ADA and the mere potential of ADA liability has had the beneficial effect of compelling health care decision-makers to take the presence and needs of persons with disabilities into account; in so doing, the ADA has helped to render persons with disabilities visible in the world of health care.

Keywords: ADA, individuals with disabilities, discrimination, health care finance and delivery system, health care services, health insurance, regulation

Suggested Citation

Crossley, Mary, Becoming Visible: The ADA's Impact on Healthcare for Persons with Disabilities (September, 25 2008). Alabama Law Review, Vol. 52, P. 51, 2001; U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research. Available at SSRN:

Mary Crossley (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-5300 (Phone)
412-648-2649 (Fax)


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