The Commonwealth Fund released a report on May 11, 2011 on the state of women’s health. It’s not good.
Women typically have greater health care needs than men, especially during their reproductive years. In addition, women generally play the caregiver role for family members. As a result, they are hit harder by obstacles to accessing health care. One-third of all women spend 10 percent or more of their income on health care.
Twenty-seven million women in America were uninsured in 2010. This is due to rising health care costs and sluggish income growth, which have contributed to losses in health insurance and increases in premiums. Women are charged higher premiums than men of the same age. Half of women who tried to buy insurance were unable to do so. Forty-two million women, both with and without insurance, reported problems paying medical bills. “In 2010, 48 percent of working-age women—an estimated 45 million people—reported that because of cost they did not fill a prescription; skipped a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up; had a medical problem for which they did not visit the doctor; or did not see a specialist when needed—an increase from 34 percent in 2001.”
This will change with the Affordable Care Act, the federal health reform law. Under the ACA, preventive care, including screening mammography, is free. There will be small business tax credits, which could help 900,000 women-owned businesses afford insurance for their employees. Women will have access to gynecologists without a referral from a primary care provider. Large employers will have to provide nursing mothers with reasonable breaks to express breast milk.
Perhaps most importantly, in 2014, when the law is fully effective, it will be illegal for insurers to use gender rating, so women’s insurance will cost the same as men’s. Currently, gender rating is permitted in 42 states. Women pay up to 82 percent more than men for identical health insurance. While currently, most individual policies exclude maternity care, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance coverage will include maternity care, reducing the need for women to pay out of pocket for obstetrics.