Friday, April 17, 2009

What's at Stake for Women in Health Care Reform

Marcia D. Greenberger:

This January, Audra officially joined the ranks of the 17 million uninsured women across the nation. On a dwindling income and without health insurance, it became much more difficult to manage her chronic conditions--diabetes and hypertension--which require regular medication and a strict diet. 'I was at the point where I was compromising with the food, and compromising with the medicine,' Audra said. 'I stopped taking my blood sugar in the morning because I knew that I couldn't do anything to make it better.'

Audra's plight demonstrates how much these tough economic times have exacerbated the already severe problems that more and more people face in our current health system. A new U.S. Labor Department unemployment report shows that 663,000 more Americans lost their jobs in March--raising the nation's unemployment rate to a 26-year high of 8.5 percent. For many who have lost their jobs, they've also lost their employer-sponsored health insurance benefits.

In our broken health care system, nearly one in five women is uninsured. Even for those who have health insurance, women are more likely than men to have health coverage that has too many gaps, including large co-pays, life-time limits, and exclusions or limitations in needed services like mental health care or prescription drugs. Since women, on average, have lower incomes than men, they are at particular risk of financial barriers to care; one in four women says that she is unable to pay her medical bills, and women are more likely than men to delay or go without needed health care because of cost.

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