Cost Remains A Barrier To Health Care For Many Women

New survey data show that shortly after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, unmet health care needs—such as physician care, medical tests, follow-up care, prescription drugs and more—because of costs are significantly more common among nonelderly women than men, with 40.2 percent of women reporting an unmet need vs. 29.5 percent of men. The report, prepared by researchers at the Urban Institute and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ford Foundation and Urban Institute, finds that more than a quarter of women reported unmet needs due to cost for both medical services (25.8 percent) and dental care (28.5 percent), well above the 19.1 percent and 20.9 percent, respectively, reported by men.

Women reported more unmet health care needs than men for every category examined. Although an issue for women of all ages, unmet medical needs were most frequently reported by women ages 26 to 44. Low-income and uninsured women reported significantly higher levels of unmet need for care because of cost, but higher-income and insured women also reported unmet health care needs.

The authors note that women are also more likely than men to report that they or their families experienced difficulty paying medical bills in the past 12 months—24.4 percent vs. 16.6 percent.

“Health insurance is clearly a great protection against catastrophic medical debt, but cost-related barriers to care remain even among women with coverage,” said Kathy Hempstead, who directs coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This study shows that the cost-related barriers to care are greatest for low-income women.”

The report draws on survey data from June and September of 2014 to compare unmet health needs due to cost among nonelderly adults by gender, and describe unmet health needs among women ages 18-64 by age and family income, as well as health insurance status.


To speak with an expert about today’s report, please contact Frank Walsh at [email protected] or 504-309-5164.

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter or Facebook

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