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ACA Leaves Coverage Gaps for Women

December 19, 2011

Washington, DC -- Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase the number of Americans with health insurance coverage, certain populations of women will continue facing problems getting health care, according to a new Committee Opinion issued today by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College).  

 In the January 2012 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, The College notes that after ACA is fully implemented in 2014, the overall rate of uninsured (non-elderly) Americans is estimated to drop from 18.9% to 8.7%. Approximately a quarter of the remaining uninsured will be undocumented immigrants. Another 16% will be legal residents that fall under the affordability exemption (ie, individuals that are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but whose household income leaves them unable to obtain health care coverage under a qualified health plan, even with subsidy assistance). An additional 37% are individuals who would be eligible for Medicaid, but not enrolled.

“There are going to be women who, even with health insurance, still will face challenges getting health care, whether because they are low-income, lack education, live in communities without services, or experience cultural barriers to care,” said Maureen G. Phipps, MD, chair of The College’s Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women. Underserved women are those unable to obtain quality health care services because of barriers such as having minimal or no health insurance, poverty, cultural differences, race or ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, gender identity, and immigration status.

Statistics show that there are high rates of health problems among underserved women. For instance, the incidence rates of invasive cervical cancer are higher among minority women, particularly African American women, than among white women, largely due to limited access to health care, poverty, and geographic isolation. Cervical cancer can be prevented if women have access to routine Pap screenings and early treatment. “Unequal access to health care is associated with high mortality rates among underserved women,” said Dr. Phipps. “Many deaths are potentially avoidable if women receive screening for preventable and treatable conditions.”

The College advocates for expanded health care access to underserved women by providing culturally competent care, tracking health outcomes of racial and ethnic minority populations, coordinating key services such as mental health care and reproductive care, and funding comparative effectiveness research to develop effective interventions among these women.

“We need to make sure our health care system continues providing safety net services for underserved women in the form of publicly funded clinics, community health centers, and Federally Qualified Health Centers,” said Dr. Phipps.

 

Committee Opinion #516 “Health Systems for Underserved Women” is published in the January 2012 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 55,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization. www.acog.org

 

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