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How Health Reform Would Help Women

A by-the-numbers look at how women are particularly affected under our broken health care system and why we cannot afford to miss this opportunity to fix it.

Peggy Robertson, a patient-health care consumer listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington on October 15, 2009, during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the gap in health care costs and coverage between men and women in America. (AP/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
Peggy Robertson, a patient-health care consumer listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington on October 15, 2009, during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the gap in health care costs and coverage between men and women in America. (AP/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Women face unique difficulties in the health care system. Insurance companies in the individual market often use a practice known as “gender rating” to routinely charge women higher premiums than men for the same plan. Women also have higher out-of-pocket costs and greater rates of being “underinsured” because they are more likely to suffer from a chronic condition and have more routine health care needs.

Many individual market insurance plans do not even cover basic services for women such as maternity care. And insurance companies will sometimes deny coverage in whole or in part because of what they deem to be pre-existing conditions, such as domestic violence or having had a Caesarian section.

As a result, women are more likely to delay or go without needed medical care because they cannot afford it, especially in times of high unemployment. The numbers below paint a picture of the particular difficulties women face within our current health care system. Provisions in the health reform legislation that passed both the House and Senate would help prevent these discriminatory practices and ensure that all women have access to affordable, high-quality health care plans.

Women spend more on insurance and receive less care

48 percent: How much more some insurance companies charge women over men due to gender rating.

68 percent: Amount more that women spend on health care than men during their reproductive years.

12 percent: The portion of women with individual market health insurance whose plan covers pregnancy.

$7,500: Average cost of a pregnancy with no complications and no Caesarian section. The average cost of Caesarian sections was nearly $16,000 in 2007.

Uninsured women forgo necessary care

27 percent: Portion of women who report having health problems requiring medical attention that they were unable to see a doctor for due to cost, compared to 21 percent of men.

22 percent: Portion of women who report being unable to afford to fill a prescription, compared to 15 percent of men.

32 percent: Portion of uninsured women age 18 to 64 who in 2005 had not received a Pap test for at least three years.

Recession increases uninsurance rates for women

6 million: Number of women who are without jobs as well as health care coverage in the current economic downturn.

1.7 million: Number of women who have lost their health benefits due to job losses during the current economic downturn.

50 percent: Portion of medical bankruptcies filed by women in 2007.

60 percent: Portion of uninsured women who are single and therefore under heightened pressure to find a job with health insurance.

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