Cost and lack of time keep women from seeing physicians

May 20, 2014

Though women are often thought of as the drivers for healthcare in their families, many face cost and logistical barriers to obtaining healthcare for themselves, according to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Though women are often thought of as the drivers for healthcare in their families, many face cost and logistical barriers to obtaining healthcare for themselves, according to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The study found that the cost of healthcare caused 26% of women to delay or go without treatment in the past year. Uninsured women face even more issues with cost, with 65% report delaying or forgoing treatment because they couldn’t afford it. Even women with insurance struggle with the cost of healthcare-16% of women with private insurance and 35% of women with Medicaid say costs stop them from receiving treatment.

Finding time to get to the doctor’s office is even more of a challenge for women. Twenty three percent of women surveyed say they don’t have the time to go to the doctor, and almost 20% cannot take off time at work. Nearly a quarter of low-income women count burdens such as transportation and childcare as reasons that they don’t get healthcare.

Wellness and preventive care visits to physicians are often the gateway to care for many patients, with 82% of women reporting having well woman visits. However, fewer women say that their visit includes questions about other aspects of their health. In the past three year, 70% of women surveyed said their physicians talked to them about nutrition and diet, and less than half were asked about substance abuse, smoking, and mental health.

The study’s authors suggest that because many women only see gynecologists for reproductive care, providers need to work harder at connecting the gaps in wellness and preventive coverage.

“A deeper focus on the content of well woman visits, along with patient education, may be needed to broaden use of clinical preventive services for women,” the study’s authors said.

The survey was conducted with nearly 3,000 women at the end of 2013, before the first phase of Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate and Medicaid expansion were implemented. However, many other aspects of ACA had already been in play, including expansion of preventive, wellness and maternity coverage. The authors say that the study will serve as a benchmark to the effectiveness of ACA provisions to fill coverage gaps.

“In the coming years, millions of uninsured women could gain access to coverage that includes a wide range of benefits that are important to their care,” the study’s authors said.