Raising Women’s Voices

In economic hardships, mammogram rate declines; women forgo health care more than men

Posted in Affordability, Health Disparities, Reports and Studies by raisingwomensvoices on May 13, 2009

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked a slight reduction in the proportion of women getting annual mammograms in almost every state.  In some parts of the country, out-of-pocket costs for routine mammograms range from $135 to $270 and, although under most insurance coverage the co-pay tends to be only $10 to $35, Mark Rukavina, executive director of the Access Project, a health reform advocacy organization, says, “even that small fee could seem insurmountable stacked against other costs right now.”

One breast cancer specialist, Christine Pellegrino of Montefiore-Einstein Cancer Center in the Bronx, believes the lower rate of mammograms is a reflection of cost affordability right now, noting that there has been no signs of declining mammogram rates among her patients, who are largely insured through Medicaid which covers the full cost of routine and follow-up mammograms.  Such patients, Pellegrino says, “are not really affected by the bigger financial issues that end up causing other women to have to choose between their health care and more routine things, such as paying for food, housing, utilities or even the health care of their kids and spouses.”

And the Commonwealth fund released a study titled Women at Risk: Why Many Women Are Forgoing Needed Health Care, revealing that 52% of working-age women, compared to just 39% of men, report problems such as not being able to fill a prescription, go to the doctor, or get a medical test.  The study focuses on the unmanageable costs of health care as they affect underinsured women.

Women who are insured but have inadequate coverage are especially vulnerable: 69 percent of underinsured women have problems accessing care because of costs, compared with half (49%) of underinsured men. Women are more affected by high health care costs because they have lower average incomes and use the health care system more frequently, and therefore face higher out-of-pocket health costs than men.

What’s more is that the conclusions of this study are based on data collected in 2007, long before the economic recession and related loss of coverage hit the country.  A more recent Gallup survey polled 1,031 women, ages 18 to 44, of which 15% reported they have recently stopped taking medications due to cost, and one in seven reported putting of routine gynecological exams for the same reason.

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