Many women struggle to obtain health coverage

Many women--whether insured or uninsured--are having a tough time getting the healthcare coverage that they and their families need, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund.

For instance, in 2010, 48 percent of working-age women--an estimated 45 million individuals--reported that high healthcare costs prevented them from filling prescriptions; caused them to skip recommended tests, treatments or follow-ups; and prevented them from visiting a physician for specific medical problems. This was an increase from 34 percent in 2001.

In addition, 44 percent of women reported problems paying their medical bills or having medical debt--up 38 percent from 2005. According to the report, this means about 42 million women are either not able to pay their medical bills, have changed their way of life in order to pay medical bills, have been contacted by a collections agency about medical bills, or they are paying off medical debt over time.

These struggles have added up to "real consequences" for women and their families, with one-third of women who reported a medical bill problem also reporting they were unable to pay for basic things such as food, rent, or heat because of those medical bills, notes the report. What's more, 41 percent said they had used up all their savings to pay their medical bills and one-quarter took on credit card debt.

Many of the estimated 27 million working-age women who went without health insurance for at least part of 2010 can expect to gain coverage under the new healthcare reform law, according to the report. However, many will have to wait until 2014 when healthcare coverage becomes more affordable through premium subsidies and new regulations.

The report "shows how rapidly rising healthcare costs and lagging incomes are leaving increasing numbers of women unable to afford health insurance and health care--and millions are struggling with medical bills and debt," said study co-author and Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins in a statement. "But, change is underway."

For more details:
- see the Commonwealth Fund report (.pdf)
- view ABC News article