Women in the US lag in access to health care and health status

Mature Female Friends Socializing In Backyard Together
  • Women in the United States have long lagged behind their counterparts in other high-income countries in terms of access to health care and health status.
  • U.S. women report the least positive experiences among the 11 countries studied. They have the greatest burden of chronic illness, highest rates of skipping needed health care because of cost, difficulty affording their health care, and are least satisfied with their care.
  • More than one-third of women in the U.S. report skipping needed medical care because of costs, a far higher rate than the other countries included in the study.

According to The Commonwealth Fund American women have long struggled to access the health care they need. The United States spends more on health care than other countries do, but Americans report high rates of not seeking care because of costs, as well as high instances of chronic disease. Prior research has found that poor access to primary care in the United States had led to inadequate management and prevention of diagnoses and diseases.

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) now in place, most women in the U.S. have guaranteed access to health coverage (Appendix 2); more than 7 million working-age women have gained insurance since the implementation of the law. Millions of others who had been insured now receive additional benefits and cost protections through the law’s reforms. But recent changes by the Trump administration and Congress may jeopardize this progress. These changes include repeal of the law’s individual mandate penalty; expansion of plans that do not have to comply with the law’s consumer protections and benefit requirements, including the requirement to provide maternity care; threats to remove guaranteed coverage of preexisting conditions; and proposed changes to Title X funding. In the future, these changes may raise costs and limit access to health insurance and services for people who do not qualify for subsidized care, especially those with health problems. They could reduce the recent gains U.S. women have made and widen differences between women in the U.S. and those in other countries.

The relationship between emotional distress and health is complex, but some research shows emotional distress can exacerbate physical illness as well as lead to difficulties managing other aspects of life, such as the ability to work. One-quarter or more of women in Australia, Norway, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, and the U.S. reported having experienced emotional distress — that is, anxiety or sadness that was difficult to cope with alone in the past two years. Only 7 percent of women in Germany reported having emotional distress and only 11 percent of women in France.

U.S. women most often reported problems paying or disputing medical bills or spending time on related paperwork. Nearly half (44%) of women in the U.S. faced such problems compared with only 2 percent in the U.K. U.S. women had the highest rates of having payment denied by their insurers or receiving a smaller insurance payment than they expected, compared to women in other countries.

Is it any wonder that more women are getting elected to Congress and taking over big companies?