Women struggle to pay for medical care more often than men

While many Americans have trouble paying for their healthcare, women find it especially hard.

Those are among the findings of a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Urban Institute. Slightly more than 40 percent of the women surveyed in June and September of last year had at least one unmet health need, according to the study. That's compared to just 29.5 percent of men.

Unmet needs created by a cost barrier occurred among 25.8 percent of women for healthcare services and 28.5 percent of women for dental care. That's compared to the 19.1 percent of men who had an unmet healthcare need and 20.9 percent with an unmet dental need due to costs. Women did have an easier time accessing reproductive services than general medical care as whole, however.

Women were also more likely than men to report that they had trouble paying medical bills in the past year--24.6 percent for the former compared to 16.6 percent for the latter.

The needs of women are especially acute in the states that have yet to expand Medicaid eligibility under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although RevCycle Intelligence noted that even those women who gained insuance under the ACA still struggled to fulfill all their healthcare needs.

"Health insurance is clearly a great protection against catastrophic medical debt, but cost-related barriers to care remain even among women with coverage," Kathy Hempstead, who directs coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a statement emailed to FierceHealthFinance. "This study shows that the cost-related barriers to care are greatest for low-income women."

Steven Brill opined similarly in his new book, "America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System, "noting that the ACA contains little in the way of cost controls that could keep the finances of the U.S. healthcare system in check for consumers or the nation as a whole.

The report was also critical of the lack of transparency regarding a patient's cost for a specific procedure, "so respondents may forgo needed care in anticipation of high costs for the service without actual knowledge of how much it will cost them," the report said.

To learn more:
- read the report
- check out the RevCycle Intelligence article