The Affordable Care Act mandated data collection standards to identify people with disabilities in federal surveys to better understand and address health disparities within this population. Most federal surveys use six questions from the American Community Survey (ACS-6) to identify people with disabilities, whereas many international surveys use the six-item Washington Group Short Set (WG-SS). The National Survey on Health and Disability (NSHD), which focuses on working-age adults ages 18–64, uses both question sets and contains other disability questions. We compared ACS-6 and WG-SS responses with self-reported disability types. The ACS-6 and WG-SS failed to identify 20 percent and 43 percent, respectively, of respondents who reported disabilities in response to other NSHD questions (a broader WG-SS version missed 4.4 percent of respondents). The ACS-6 and the WG-SS performed especially poorly in capturing respondents with psychiatric disabilities or chronic health conditions. Researchers and policy makers must augment or strengthen federal disability questions to improve the accuracy of disability prevalence counts, understanding of health disparities, and planning of appropriate services for a diverse and growing population.
Jean P. Hall, Noelle K. Kurth, Catherine Ipsen, Andrew Myers, and Kelsey Goddard. Comparing Measures Of Functional Difficulty With Self-Identified Disability: Implications For Health Policy. Health Affairs 2022 41:10, 1433-1441