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Report shows number of uninsured American women has increased in last decade

A new report from the Commonwealth Fund shows that a growing number of women in the United States lack medical insurance and examines the differences in how American women fare compared to their counterparts in countries with universal health insurance systems.

The report draws on data from three different surveys conducted by the Commonwealth Fund over multiple years. Findings show that 18.7 million American women were without medical insurance coverage in 2010, an increase from 12.8 million in 2000. An additional 16.7 million women were underinsured, meaning they had high out-of-pocket costs relative to their income, compared to 10.3 million in 2003.

In analyzing the implications of poor coverage for U.S. women, report authors compared their experiences to those of women in 10 other industrialized nations, all of which have universal health insurance systems. Their findings showed American women, both with and without health insurance, are more likely to forgo needed care because of cost and have greater difficulty paying their medical bills. Among the report findings (.pdf):

  • Women in the U.S. said they have problems paying medical bills at double the rate of women in any of the other countries. One-fourth (26%) of women in the U.S. ages 19 - 64 had medical bill problems, compared to 13% in Australia, 12% in France, and 4% in Germany.
  • About two of five (39%) women in the U.S. spent $1,000 or more on out-of-pocket medical costs over 2009-2010, compared to one-fourth (24%) in Switzerland, 1 percent in Sweden, and 0 percent in the U.K.
  • More than two of five (43%) women in the U.S. said that over 2009-2010 they went without recommended care, skipped seeing a doctor when they were sick, or failed to fill prescriptions because of cost, compared to 28 percent in Germany and Australia, 8 percent in the Netherlands, and 7 percent in the U.K.
  • Half (52%) of women in the U.S. said they were confident that they would be able to afford the health care they need if they became seriously ill. In contrast, nearly all women in the U.K. (91%) and three-fourths (77%) in the Netherlands and Switzerland (76%) were confident they could afford needed care.

Previously: Report shows millions of jobless Americans forgoing needed health care, prescription drugs, More reaction to Supreme Court's health-care decision: Are women the big winners? and U.S. not making the grade when it comes to women's health
Photo by Stanford EdTech

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