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Delayed care because doctor's office not open

Codes and Frequencies

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For sample adults, DELAYHRS indicates whether they delayed or did not get medical care because they couldn't get to the doctor's office or clinic when it was open during the past 12 months.

Prior to 2022, DELAYHRS was asked of both sample adults and sample children, and it indicated whether they delayed medical care because "the clinic/doctor's office wasn't open when [they] could get there." This series of questions was not intended to elicit instances when needed medical care was foregone entirely; the Field Representative's Manual for prior years stated, "Delayed assumes that medical care has been or will eventually be received."

Beginning in 2022, the NCHS included five questions about nonfinancial access barriers to medical care and one question about transportation barriers as emerging content. These items are intended to produce national prevalence estimates of nonfinancial access barriers to care.

DELAYHRS is one of several variables identifying barriers to getting medical care.


From 1997-2018, interviewers began the series of questions by saying, "There are many reasons people delay getting medical care. Have you delayed getting care for any of the following reasons in the past 12 months?" Other (non-financial) reasons for delayed access to care identified in the survey are:

  • "you couldn't get an appointment soon enough" (DELAYAPPT)

  • "you couldn't get through on the telephone" (DELAYPHONE)

  • "once you get there, you have to wait too long to see the doctor" (DELAYWAIT)
Beginning in 2022, interviewers began the series of questions by saying, "There are many other reasons people delay or do not get medical care. During the past 12 months, did you delay or not get medical care for any of the following reasons…"

  • "you had difficulty finding a doctor, clinic, or hospital that would accept your health insurance" (DELAYINS)

  • "an appointment wasn't available when you needed it" (DELAYAVAIL)

  • "you couldn't get to the doctor's office or clinic when it was open" (DELAYHRS)

  • "it takes too long to get to the doctor's office or clinic from your house or work" (DELAYLONG)

  • "you were too busy with word or other commitments to take the time" (DELAYBUSY)

In addition, interviewers asked, "In the past 12 months, has a lack of reliable transportation kept you from medical appointments, meetings, work, or from getting things you needed for daily living (DELAYTRANS)?"


This variable is completely comparable over time for 1997-2018 samples. Users should proceed with caution when making comparisons between 1997-2018 and 2022-later samples due to changes in the questionnaire text, universe, and sample design.

Beginning in 2022, the question is expanded to include medical care that is foregone in addition to medical care that is delayed. The universe is also modified to no longer include sample children.

The NHIS questionnaire was substantially redesigned in 2019 to introduce a different data collection structure and new content. For more information on changes in terminology, universes, and data collection methods beginning in 2019, please see the user note.


  • 1997-2018: Sample adults age 18+ and sample children under age 18.
  • 2022: Sample adults age 18+.


  • 1997-2018, 2022