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Many women in U.S. can't afford medicine

Two-thirds of women who had no health insurance and more than a quarter of young and middle-aged U.S. women went without medical care last year because they could not afford it, according to a survey.
/ Source: Reuters

Two-thirds of women who had no health insurance and more than a quarter of young and middle-aged U.S. women went without medical care last year because they could not afford it, according to a survey released Thursday.

A growing number of women are forgoing screening tests such as mammograms and are not talking to their doctors about important health issues such as smoking, alcohol use and calcium intake, the Kaiser Family Foundation survey found.

“The growth in health care costs has become a central women’s health issue,” Alina Salganicoff, vice president and director of women’s health policy at the nonprofit research organization, said in a statement.

“A sizable share of women are falling through the cracks, either because they don’t have insurance or even with insurance can’t afford to pay for medical care or prescription drugs.”

The telephone survey of 2,766 women age 18 and older was conducted in July through September of 2004 and Kaiser said it is nationally representative. Another 500 men were interviewed for a comparison.

“Many women also cannot afford prescription drugs. They do not fill prescriptions or resort to skipping doses and splitting medicines,” reads the report, available on the Internet at http://www.kff.org

Women with no health insurance fared worse, with 67 percent saying they delayed or missed medical care, including prescription drugs, because of cost. But 27 percent of women with either private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid coverage also did.

“Women (56 percent) are more likely than men (42 percent) to use a prescription medicine on a regular basis, and are also more likely to report difficulties affording their medications,” the report reads.

“In the past year, one in five women (20 percent) report that they did not fill a prescription because of the cost, compared to 14 percent of men.”

The good news is that 80 percent of U.S. women reported they were in good health or better, but 38 percent said they had a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes that required ongoing medical care.

That compares to 30 percent of men.

“Fewer than half of all women say they have talked to a health care professional in the past three years about smoking (33 percent), alcohol use (20 percent), and calcium intake (43 percent), while just over half have talked about diet, exercise, and nutrition (55 percent),” the report reads.

Women aged 40 and above are advised to get regular mammograms, every year or two, but the rate of women aged 40 to 64 saying they actually got one fell from 73 percent in 2001 to 69 percent in 2004, the report found.

“Only 40 percent of uninsured women over 40 had a mammogram in the past year, compared to three-quarters of women with private coverage (74 percent) or Medicare (73 percent).”

And 76 percent of women aged 18 to 64 got the recommended annual Pap test for cervical cancer, compared to 81 percent in 2001.