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This Week in PubHub: Women and Health

March 10, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she wrote about our free PubHub widgets.)

PubHub features four reports on its home page each week on a broad monthly topic, along with a link to a complete list of reports on that topic. In March, we're highlighting reports on women, and this week the focus is on women and health.

Women_and_health Healthcare reform is on (almost) everyone's minds these days, but how will it affect women in particular? To answer that question, one could start by looking at the current status of women's access to health care and coverage. Women at Risk: Why Many Women Are Forgoing Needed Health Care (Commonwealth Fund) finds that while women require more healthcare services than men during their reproductive years, they are also more likely to go without needed care because of cost. According to a 2007 Commonwealth survey, 45 percent of women in the United States were un- or underinsured, while only 30 percent had adequate coverage and no difficulties accessing or paying for care.

Health and Health Care Access Among California Women Ages 50-64 (UCLA Center for Health Policy Research) notes that while older women in California are uninsured at a lower rate (14 percent) than younger women (24 percent), fully one-third of low-income women in that cohort were uninsured, while almost one-third of all older women reported delaying or forgoing care. Given the health concerns of older women, the report calls for the adoption of proactive, preventive health policies and greater access to affordable coverage.

A 2009 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Putting Women's Health Care Disparities on the Map: Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities at the State Level (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation), looks at variations among women in health status, access to and utilization of health care, and social factors such as poverty, wage gaps, and education by race/ethnicity and state. Predictably, women of color fared worse than white women overall, but there was also considerable variation within racial/ethnic groups across states; indeed, in states where the racial/ethnic disparities were smaller, it was often because all women were doing poorly. The report highlights the importance of shaping state-level policies that reflect the particular demographics, challenges, and needs of women in that state, including expanding greater access to primary care providers and reproductive health services.

Reproductive health is at the heart of a controversial provision in the House version of healthcare reform legislation. If passed, the provision would prohibit the public plan in any so-called insurance exchange from covering abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the woman's life, and would prohibit federal subsidies from being used to purchase health plans that include broader abortion coverage. Access to Abortion Coverage and Health Reform (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation) highlights concerns that such restrictions also may eventually limit the availability of private plans that cover abortion, affecting not only low-income women who qualify for subsidies, but all women.

The experience of women, each of these reports conclude, underscores the need to expand access to high-quality coverage that includes routine prevention, screening, treatment, and maintenance as well as built-in cost protections. The $64,000 question, of course, is whether healthcare reform's time has come. What do you think? Share your thoughts below.

While you're at it, feel free to visit PubHub and comment on these and other reports. And be sure to check out other reports related to the issues women face today.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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You would think that women should have a better health care as they normally need it more.

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