NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Report Finds Growing Number of Uninsured Women

September 4, 2001

Women face growing disparities in getting health care and health insurance, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund and Jeanne Lambrew of George Washington University. It projects that the number of uninsured women will increase if current trends continue.

  • Women's higher rate of poverty and greater eligibility for Medicaid have translated into slightly fewer women than men being uninsured, but this longstanding pattern is changing.
  • Over the past five years, the number of uninsured women has grown three times faster than the number of uninsured men.
  • If the trend continues at its current pace, the number of uninsured women will exceed the number of uninsured men for the first time in 2005.

While women need and use more health care services than men, they are also more likely to care for children or aging parents and less likely than men to have access to health care.

  • Uninsured women are almost 20 percent more likely to have difficulty obtaining health care services than uninsured men.
  • Women ages 55 to 65 are 20 percent more likely to be uninsured than men, but as baby boomers turn 55 this year the number of women in this age group will probably increase by about 50 percent.
  • Women are a third more likely to turn down employer-based insurance and become uninsured, often because of cost.

The study suggests that this problem can be solved by expanding Medicaid to cover spouses, and the Children's Health Insurance Program to cover one-fourth of currently uninsured women, rather than through tax subsidies for the purchase of private insurance. However, it did recommend using tax incentives for both the employers and employees, particularly those employed part-time or by small firms, in order to encourage more employers to offer more employees health insurance.

Source: Jeanne Lambrew, "Diagnosing Disparities in Health Insurance for Women: A Prescription for Change," August 2001, Commonwealth Fund.


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