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Rising health care costs hit women harder than men


April 19, 2007: Increasing costs of health care are affecting women harder than men, a study report released in the United States on April 19, 2007, has revealed. Women will be especially hit as companies shift more costs to employees.

The study, sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund, shows that women are more likely to avoid needed health care than men and are more likely to end up in debt over health care bills.

According to Judith Waxman of the National Women's Law Center, who worked on the study, “whether women are insured or uninsured, they have so many out-of-pocket costs that they are more likely to avoid health care.”

The study found that about 45 million citizens of the United States do not have health insurance, which presents a major barrier to health care. Another 16 million Americans are considered ‘underinsured’ and must pay a large chunk of health costs out-of-pocket.

Though both men and women are at similar risk for being uninsured, women – whether they are insured or not – are more likely to struggle paying for health care. Women are more likely to incur debt on account of medical costs, according to Judith Waxman.

The authors of the study say that these disparities should figure prominently as politicians prepare proposals to address the high numbers of uninsured and rising health costs.

The report on the study by the Commonwealth Fund drew its conclusions from three major surveys of household economic data representing a broad range of adults in the United States. The major findings of the study are:

* 33% of insured women and 68% of uninsured women do not get the care they need because they cannot afford it.
* In contrast, 23% of insured men and 49% of uninsured men avoid health care because of cost.
* 16% of women are considered underinsured, while only 9% of men are considered underinsured.
* 38% of women struggle with medical bills compared with 29% of men.
* Women have less access to employer-sponsored insurance because they are more likely than men to work part-time. And, women’s access to that insurance is less stable because they are more than twice as likely as men to get employer-sponsored insurance through their spouse.
* Women are more likely than men to take prescription drugs.

The authors of the report say that the study stresses the need for comprehensive health care coverage that does not require high out-of-pocket costs.





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