Data Crunch: U.S. Women Really Need the Affordable Care ActS

Commonwealth Fund researchers studied differences in how women in the U.S. deal with health care as opposed to women in 10 other countries that offer universal health insurance coverage and, predictably, found some huge disparities between women with government-funded health care (you know, communists) and women in the United States.

We'll give you the bad news first: twenty percent of U.S. women (18.7 million) ages 19-64 were uninsured and an additional 16.7 million women were underinsured in 2010. In 2003, those numbers were 15 percent and 10.3 million, respectively.

But the good news is that the report estimates that the Affordable Care Act will eventually cover nearly all women, bringing the uninsured rate among women down to around 8 percent.

Okay, wait: there's some more shitty news. It makes sense that researchers found that uninsured women in the U.S. were most likely to face problems with medical bills and getting needed health care, but even insured U.S. women were more likely to face these problems compared to women in other countries. Here are some depressing bullet points from the study's press release:

  • 51 percent of uninsured U.S. women had a problem paying medical bills and 77 percent went without needed health care due to costs, more than double the rates reported by women in other nations.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 30 percent of women in Texas are uninsured, compared to only 5 percent of women in Massachusetts, which enacted a universal health insurance law in 2006 that is similar to the Affordable Care Act — you know, the one Mitt Romney now treats like an ex girlfriend.
  • But wait! There's more good news. According to the report, women are already benefiting from the The Affordable Care Act:

  • In 2011, an estimated 20.4 million women benefited from provisions requiring all private insurance plans in existence when the law passed in March 2010 to provide preventive services like screening for cervical, breast, and colon cancer, cholesterol checks, and osteoporosis and chlamydia screening without cost sharing.
  • Beginning in August 2012, private insurance plans will cover an additional set of preventive services tailored specifically for women, including family planning services, without cost sharing.
  • According to a recent Commonwealth Fund survey, in 2011 an estimated 3.1 million young women stayed on or joined their parents' health plans likely because of The Affordable Care Act provision requiring insurers that offer dependent coverage to let young adults enroll in their parents' health insurance until they are 26.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that 39.5 million women no longer have lifetime limits on what their health insurance plans cover because of the Affordable Care Act provision requiring insurers to remove them.
  • Preexisting Condition Insurance Plans are available in all 50 states for people with health problems who have been uninsured for at least six months. Nearly 62,000 people have enrolled in the plans, more than half of whom are women.
  • The Medicaid program now covers more services for women including smoking cessation support for pregnant women and care from free standing birth centers.
  • And things will get even better for U.S. women as more measures of the Affordable Care Act are implemented:

    According to the report, new subsidized insurance options, including a substantial expansion in eligibility for Medicaid and premium tax credits for people with incomes up to $92,200 for a family of four, will help ensure that nearly all women will have access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance. Among the five states where more than one quarter of women lacked coverage in 2009/10, uninsured rates are estimated to fall below 14 percent when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented: in Texas, the uninsured rate is expected to drop from 30.3 percent in 2009/10 to 11.6 percent; in Florida from 26.2 percent to 9.9 percent; in Arkansas from 25.3 percent to 6.8 percent; in New Mexico from 25.3 percent to 13.3 percent; and in Nevada from 25.2 percent to 13.1 percent.

    The report finds that women will also benefit from provisions in the law that will prevent insurers from charging women higher premiums because of their gender or health. More affordable reproductive and preventive health care and a strengthening of primary care services will also benefit women.

    No more bad news. For now.

    Twenty percent of US women were uninsured in 2010, up from 15 percent in 2000 [EurekAlert]

    Image via Franck Boston/Shutterstock.