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Women More Stricken by Health Care Costs

Report: Women More Likely Than Men to Be Unable to Afford Needed Health Care
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 8, 2009 -- Medical bills and other health insurance issues may prompt more women than men to skip health care visits, a new report shows.

The report comes from the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation focused on the health care system. Data came from a 2007 Commonwealth Fund survey on health insurance.

The report states that 70% of U.S. women younger than 65 reported at least one of these problems in 2007:

  • No health insurance or underinsurance
  • Medical bill or debt problems
  • Cost-related problem accessing needed care

A smaller percentage, 60%, of men younger than 65 reported those same problems in 2007.

Women were also more likely than men to report not getting preventive health care services -- such as a cancer screening -- because of the cost of those services.

"This analysis finds that even before the economy entered recession, growing numbers of adults were going without adequate health insurance, having medical bill problems, and avoiding or delaying care because of the cost," the report states. "Because women require more health care services than men, and have lower average incomes, they are exposed to a higher health care cost burden."

Although women (and men) with low incomes don't have room for major medical costs, the report also shows that medical bills and medical debt are piling up for people with high incomes -- especially women.

"Even in households earning $60,000 per year or more, significantly more women than men had medical bill problems," the report states.

The report is based on data from 2,616 U.S. adults 19 and older who took part in a 2007 Commonwealth Fund survey on health insurance. That survey has a margin of error of two percentage points.

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