Medical Costs Among Women Spell Health and Financial Problems
by Sophia Cariati
Women are significantly more likely than men to delay or go without healthcare
and prescription drugs due to costs, according to results of a recent survey
conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. What's more, a separate report reveals
that the lifetime medical costs for three top health concerns among women can
reach as much as $423,000.
These findings, in conjunction with the current economic downturn, rapidly
rising health care costs, and an increase in the number of uninsured women suggest
barriers to healthcare may be on the rise for women. Recent Census Bureau figures
reveal that the number of American women who lack health coverage rose to approximately
19.5 million between 2000 and 2001. Uninsured women have almost twice the rate
of avoidable hospitalizations and experience a greater risk of death from heart
disease, cancer, and other causes compared with their insured counterparts,
according to a 2001 report of the American College of Physicians-American Society
of Internal Medicine.
The Kaiser Family Foundation survey examined healthcare access and coverage
among nearly 4,000 women and 700 men aged 18 to 64. Twenty-four percent of non-elderly
women reported putting off or going without healthcare in the past year due
to cost, compared with 16 percent of men. In addition, 21 percent of the women
polled compared to 13 percent of the men did not fill a prescription because
of cost barriers over the past year. Moreover, 32 percent of women had a chronic
health condition such as arthritis, asthma or depression, requiring ongoing
treatment compared with 24 percent of men.
"These findings emphasize the importance of addressing health costs, access
and quality in improving women's health and well-being," said Alina Salganicoff,
Ph.D., lead author of the survey report and vice president of the Kaiser Family
Foundation, in a prepared statement.
While most widespread among the uninsured, paying for healthcare and prescription
drugs was also a problem for women with insurance. Fifty-nine percent of uninsured,
42 percent of women in fair or poor health, and 31 percent of Latinas delayed
or went without care because they couldn't afford it. In terms of medications,
40 percent of uninsured women, 27 percent of women with Medicaid and 15 percent
of privately insured women failed to fill at least one prescription due to cost
in the last year.
A separate study revealing soaring medical costs for women provides further
evidence that healthcare for the under- and un-insured can be prohibitively
expensive. Lifetime incremental medical costs for women are $423,000 for heart
disease, $233,000 for type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and $58,000 for urinary incontinence,
according to the report sponsored by the Partnership for Long-term Health for
Women. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women while
urinary incontinence and diabetes affects 33 percent and 8.2 percent of American
"This report clearly illustrates the staggering medical costs of these
conditions and the need for all Americans to have adequate insurance coverage,"
said Phyllis Greenberger, MSW, president and CEO of the Society for Women's
Health Research. "It also underscores the importance of prevention and
prevention research, particularly on these chronic conditions that affect women,
as well as the availability of effective and accessible treatments."
The Society for Women's
Health Research is the nation's only not-for-profit organization
whose sole mission is to improve the health of women through research. Founded
in 1990, the Society brought to national attention the need for the appropriate
inclusion of women in major medical research studies and the resulting need
for more information about conditions affecting women. The Society advocates
increased funding for research on women's health, encourages the study of sex
differences that may affect the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease,
and promotes the inclusion of women in medical research studies. Dr. Donnica
Moore has been a member of the Society since 1990 and is a past member of its
Board of Directors.
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Created: 11/23/2002  - Sophia Cariati