Many U.S. women short on health insurance

May 11, 2009 at 12:01 AM

WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) -- The overwhelming majority of U.S. women are either uninsured or underinsured for health costs and have medical debt problems, a report says.

The report by the Commonwealth Fund says seven of 10 working-age women -- or an estimated 64 million women -- have no medical insurance coverage or inadequate coverage.

The study, "Women at Risk: Why Many Women Are Forgoing Needed Health Care," also says 52 percent of working-age women say they have problems accessing needed healthcare because of cost, compared to 39 percent of men who said so.

"More families are making difficult choices between needed healthcare, making payments on mortgages or credit card debt, and purchasing basic necessities," said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis. "This study underscores the need for affordable universal health coverage and protection against catastrophic financial losses not only for women -- who are more likely to be at risk for high premiums and medical bills -- but for all Americans."

The study was based on data from the Commonwealth Fund's 2007 Biennial Health Insurance Survey, which was conducted from June 6, 2007, through Oct. 24, 2007.

Commonwealth said the report is likely to understate the scope of the problem since unemployment and loss of insurance coverage have increased during the U.S. recession.

"Although similar proportions of women and men were uninsured for at least part of the year or were underinsured, we found that women were more affected by exposure to healthcare costs," said Michelle Doty, director of survey research at the Commonwealth Fund.

The Biennial Health Insurance Survey of 3,501 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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