Delayed and Forgone Health Care for Nonelderly Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Findings from the September 1128 Coronavirus Tracking Survey

Empty physician's office.

Fears of exposure to the coronavirus, coupled with providers limiting services in response to the pandemic, drove adults and children in the United States to delay or forgo needed medical care.



The Issue

The pandemic has caused parents and children to miss out on a range of health care needs, and parents in lower-income families are delaying or forgoing care for their children at higher rates than those in higher-income families. Concern over the effects of these gaps in care are rising.

Key Findings

  • One-third of adults (32.6%) who reported delaying or forgoing care said one or more of their health conditions worsened as a result, or their ability to work or perform other daily activities was limited. 

  • Black adults were more likely than white or Hispanic/Latinx adults to report delaying or forgoing care (39.7% versus 34.3% and 35.5%) and more likely to report delaying or forgoing multiple types of care (28.5% versus 21.1% and 22.3%).

  • 28.8 percent of parents reported their children had delayed or missed one or more types of health care due to the pandemic.


Missing out on health care worsens health conditions in adults and threatens children’s health, development, and well-being and can impair their abilities to participate fully in school and reach their potential. Efforts to ensure families have access to affordable health care can mitigate the impact of these lapses in care, and also help guarantee socioeconomic inequities in children's health and well-being are not exacerbated even further.

About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector. Visit the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center for more information specific to its staff and its recent research.