The health risk more women take than men

When it comes to being aware of health issues, women tend to be more vigilant than men, but new data shows that may not be…

Sarah Luke, 73, of Kennesaw, Ga., who was diagnosed with diabetes six years ago, signs in to a computer to start her workout at her local YMCA. Even though insurers are finding creative ways to keep women healthy through the Affordable Care Act, many aren’t taking care of their health for other reasons. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

When it comes to being aware of health issues, women tend to be more vigilant than men, but new data shows that may not be the case with certain aspects of their life.

According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released last week, women are more likely than men to delay or avoid going to a doctor because they can’t afford it.

Approximately 26 percent of women polled said they had skipped out on health care within the last year due to cost, compared to just 20 percent of men who were polled. Of those who did go to the doctor, 20 percent of women said they had skipped recommended tests or treatments within the 12 months due to cost, compared to 14 percent of men who’d done so within the same time frame.

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What’s more, the survey revealed that, despite better access to health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act, 40 percent of African-American women and 36 percent of Hispanic women remain uninsured. Overall, as many as 1 in 5 women still did not have health care coverage.

“Over time, as the ACA’s coverage expansion takes full effect, we expect that this profile will change, particularly as a result of the Medicaid expansion that is happening in at least half of the states,” Usha Ranji, KFF’s associate director of women’s health, told reporters last week. “Women and men both feel the impact of out-of-pocket costs. They are burdensome, though, for a bigger share of women.”

Cost wasn’t the only issue holding women back from medical care, however. The survey found childcare and employment were considered top factors for why a woman might put off her own personal care. A quarter of women polled indicated that being a mother left them with no time to visit the doctor, with a number of mothers stating they couldn’t find childcare or couldn’t take time off from work. A smaller percentage of women cited a lack of transportation as the reason they put off medical treatment.

Other key findings of the report included:

  • 28 percent of women say they had problems paying medical bills, compared to 19 percent of men.
  • Only 6 in 10 women know that insurance plans must now cover check-ups at no out-of-pocket cost, and 57 percent know that mammograms and pap tests are covered without cost sharing.
  • In the last 12 months, only 44 percent of women who did visit the doctor discussed the dangers of smoking; 31 percent discussed the dangers of alcohol and drug use; and 41 percent discussed mental health.
  • 45 percent of women ages 18-25 indicated they were covered on a parent’s plan as a dependent.
  • 19 percent of sexually active women ages 15-44 who say they do not want to get pregnant report that they are not using contraceptives.
  • While 86 percent of women ages 18 to 44 have heard of emergency contraceptive pills, only 5 percent have used or bought the pills.
  • 42 percent of women report insurance covered part of the costs of birth control, but 13 percent say they did not have any coverage for birth control.Only half of women who visited a doctor said they had a discussion about sexual health.

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“The Kaiser Women’s Health Survey, conducted from Sept. 19 to Nov. 21, 2013, provides a national overview of women’s health experiences regarding health care coverage, access, and affordability among nonelderly women (ages 18 to 64) in the United States more than a year after the ACA requirements for preventive and contraceptive coverage affecting women took effect and shortly before the coverage expansions in the law took full effect in January 2014,” stated KFF’s press release.

As the law continues to facilitate changes throughout the country, KFF will provide up-to-date monitoring to see where additional outreach strategies may be necessary.