U.S. women face higher health care costs

Oceans Apart: The Higher Health Costs of Women in the U.S. Compared to Other Nations, and How Reform Is Helping

By Ruth Robertson, David Squires, Tracy Garber, Sara R. Collins, and Michelle M. Doty
The Commonwealth Fund, July 2012


An estimated 18.7 million U.S. women ages 19 to 64 were uninsured in 2010, up from 12.8 million in 2000. An additional 16.7 million women had health insurance but had such high out-of-pocket costs relative to their income that they were effectively underinsured in 2010. This issue brief examines the implications of poor coverage for women in the United States by comparing their experiences to those of women in 10 other industrialized nations, all of which have universal health insurance systems. The analysis finds that women in the United States — both with and without health insurance — are more likely to go without needed health care because of cost and have greater difficulty paying their medical bills than women in the 10 other countries. In 2014, the Affordable Care Act will substantially reduce health care cost exposure for all U.S. women by significantly expanding and improving health insurance coverage.

From the Conclusion

When fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act will correct much of the inequity in the U.S. system. A substantial expansion of affordable health insurance options is expected to reduce the percentage of uninsured working-age women from 20 percent to 8 percent.


By Don McCanne, MD

Over 35 million working-age women in the United States potentially face financial hardship should they need health care either because they are uninsured or because their insurance exposes them to excessive out-of-pocket expenses. That's not acceptable.

The authors of this Commonwealth Fund report note how the Affordable Care Act "will correct much of the inequity in the U.S. system." But not enough. Not only will underinsurance remain a problem, 8 percent of working-age women will have no insurance at all. That's not acceptable either, especially since we already know how to fix our system and can afford to do so. We simply have to do it.