Washington, DC -- During Cover the Uninsured Week, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reiterates its position that all women should be guaranteed a package of essential benefits that includes primary and preventive care, pregnancy-related and infant care, medically and surgically necessary services, prescription drugs, and catastrophic care. The essential principles for achieving universal care that meets women's lifetime health needs are defined in its Health Care for Women, Health Care for All: A Reform Agenda.
Health insurance is a basic necessity for women, but too many women remain uninsured. Currently, 18 percent of women in the US have no health insurance, a number that is poised to rise if the status quo does not change. As the economy continues to struggle and rising health insurance costs cause more employers to reduce or drop coverage, more women will face the hard decision to either pay for increasingly expensive premiums from already strained household budgets or drop insurance coverage altogether.
Living without insurance can lead to negative health outcomes for women of all ages. Uninsured women are less likely to receive critical preventive health care and screening tests, such as clinical breast exams and Pap tests, than women who have insurance. They are also more likely to receive diagnoses at more advanced disease stages and tend to receive less medical intervention once diagnosed.
Being uninsured also affects the next generation. Thirteen percent of pregnant women are uninsured and, generally, women between the ages of 19-44 are more likely to be living without insurance. Reproductive-age women without health insurance stand to miss out on preconception and prenatal care that can help ensure the best outcomes possible for both mother and baby. And while programs are available to provide insurance to children, nearly 20 percent remain uninsured.
Though coverage may be hard to find, uninsured women should not forgo screening exams, prescribed medications, and ongoing care for preexisting medical conditions. The College encourages women to tap resources that provide health care to the uninsured, such as those listed below:
- The Planned Parenthood Federation of America offers affordable and comprehensive women's health care including contraceptive services, STD screenings, breast exams, and routine physicals (plannedparenthood.org/health-center/index.htm).
- The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/cancercontacts/nbccedp/contacts.asp) provides free mammograms and Pap tests to uninsured, underinsured, and low-income women who qualify.
- Many pharmaceutical companies offer assistance to patients who can't afford their medication. Women can check with individual drug manufacturers for more details.
- The Bureau of Primary Health Care website (findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov) allows searches for free or low-cost health care clinics by state and city.
- The Insure Kids Now! website (insurekidsnow.gov) offers links to programs that provide low- or no-cost health insurance coverage for children and pregnant women by state.
- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provides state resources for finding insurance (covertheuninsured.org/content/resources-uninsured).
- The American Academy of Dermatology has a database of dermatologists by state who offer free skin cancer screenings (aad.org/public/exams/screenings/index.html).
- Find free or low-cost eye exams through the American Academy of Ophthalmology hotline service (800-222-EYES).
- Community health fairs often offer free screenings, such as blood pressure and cholesterol tests.
- State and city health departments may have information on locations offering free flu shots.
For more information, visit covertheuninsured.org.