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Survey: Women Skip Doctor Visits Because of Cost

By Dena Bunis, CQ HealthBeat Managing Editor

May 11, 2012 -- Women are not only struggling to afford health insurance, but nearly half of them don't go to the doctor when they are sick, according to the results of a new Commonwealth Fund survey.

"Women with health problems and women with low incomes find it particularly difficult to get health coverage,'' said Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins, who co-authored the report.

Collins and Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis told reporters in a conference call previewing the study that the findings underscore the need for the health overhaul law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152), which they said is already beginning to help women in such areas as coverage of preventive services, such as mammograms.

Using data from the Commonwealth Fund's 2010 Biennial Health Insurance Survey, the report also found that 48 percent of women either didn't go to the doctor when they were ill, didn't fill a prescription, or skipped a test, treatment or follow-up visit because they couldn't afford it. That finding is up from 34 percent in 2001.

The report determined that an estimated 27 million women ages 19-64 were uninsured for all or part of 2010, with women in low and moderate income families most likely to go without insurance. Most estimates are that 50 million Americans are uninsured. Commonwealth also found that medical costs are taking a greater share of women's incomes: 33 percent of women reported they spent 10 percent or more of their incomes on health care costs in 2010 compared with 25 percent who said that a decade ago.

According to the report, 46 percent of women were up to date on a set of recommended preventive health care services, and women who were uninsured or had low or moderate incomes were the least likely to have received recommended preventive care. For example, only 31 percent of uninsured women ages 50-64 reported having a mammogram in the past two years, compared to 79 percent of women with health insurance.

"The Affordable Care Act couldn't come at a better time for women whose health and financial security has been increasingly in jeopardy over the past ten years," Davis said. "Moving forward it will be crucial for the health reform law to be implemented quickly and effectively so the millions of uninsured women and those with poor health insurance in the United States can finally afford the health insurance and health care they need."

Data for the Commonwealth study came from the Commonwealth Fund 2010 Biennial Health Insurance Survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associations International from July 14 to Nov. 30, 2010. A random national sample of 4,005 adults age 19 older were interviewed for 25 minutes by phone. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points.

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