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Women's Health & Policy Updates > Women's Health Insurance Coverage

News from our colleagues at the Commonwealth Fund

May 11, 2009

Women Skipping Health Care Because of Costs

Women are more likely than men to have trouble getting needed care because they cannot afford it, with about half (52%) of working-age women, compared with 39 percent of men, reporting problems such as not being able to fill a prescription, go to the doctor, or get a medical test.

The study, Women at Risk: Why Many Women Are Forgoing Needed Health Care, by Commonwealth Fund researchers Sheila Rustgi, Michelle Doty, Ph.D., and Sara Collins, Ph.D., reveals that seven of 10 working-age women have no health insurance coverage or inadequate coverage, medical bill or debt problems, or problems getting needed health care because of cost.

Women who are insured but have inadequate coverage are especially vulnerable: 69 percent of underinsured women have problems accessing care because of costs, compared with half (49%) of underinsured men. Women are more affected by high health care costs because they have lower average incomes and use the health care system more frequently, and therefore face higher out-of-pocket health costs than men.

Because of high health care costs, women and their families are faced with making difficult choices between health care and purchasing basic necessities or making payments on mortgages or credit card debt.

The researchers say the study understates the scope of this problem, as it is based on data from the Commonwealth Fund's 2007 Biennial Health Insurance Survey. The current economic recession has led to greater unemployment and loss of insurance coverage.

"Health reforms that would expand access to affordable, high-quality coverage are critical—for women and men, and the families they care for," the authors say.

Listen to a podcast on this study, featuring interviews with the authors and other experts. See  New Directions in Health Care: The Commonwealth Fund Podcast.  


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