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New health insurance survey -- Women have trouble affording care needed

April 19, 2007 -- As Cover the Uninsured Week approaches, a new Commonwealth Fund report by researchers at the National Womens Law Center finds that even women with health insurance coverage are more likely than insured men to go without needed health care because of costs. Also, a higher percentage of women than men struggle with medical bills.

The report, Women and Health Coverage: The Affordability Gap, by Elizabeth M. Patchias and Judith G. Waxman of the National Womens Law Center finds that women are at a disadvantage because they have greater health care needs and lower incomes than men. More specifically, the report finds that 38% of women are struggling with medical bills compared with 29% of men. And, the high cost of health care services and premiums is forcing many women, even women with health insurance, to go without needed care. In fact, 33% of insured women and 68% of uninsured women dont get the health care they need because they cant afford it. In contrast, 23% of insured and 49% of uninsured men are avoiding care because of cost. Further, 16% of women are underinsured, meaning they have high out-of-pocket costs compared to their income, while only 9% of men are underinsured.

"Women are more likely than men to go without needed health care services because of costs, yet they still have higher out-of-pocket expenses. This disparity exists for both insured and uninsured women," said Waxman, vice president for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Womens Law Center. "As policymakers and advocates explore how to expand and improve health coverage, they should ensure that any proposal provides comprehensive benefits and low cost-sharing."

Other factors contribute to this gender gap in health care coverage and access: women are slightly more likely than men to purchase coverage in the individual insurance market which is often more expensive and less comprehensive than employer coverage. Women are also more likel
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Contact: Mary Mahon
mm@cmwf.org
212-606-3853
Commonwealth Fund
19-Apr-2007


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