A Two-Part Series in Women’s Health – Part One: The Importance of Health Insurance Coverage
Health insurance coverage plays a critical role in the health status of women. Having coverage expands affordability and access to health care services. In addition to limiting access to care, women without health insurance coverage often experience lower standards of care when it is accessed, and face disparities in their health outcomes. Women who have health insurance coverage also utilize critical preventive care services such as mammographies and pap tests at significantly higher rates than women without coverage. As a result, breast and cervical cancer are often diagnosed at later stages among uninsured women when treatment is less efficacious. Uninsured women also are unable to benefit from prenatal care at the same rate as women with insurance, which results in poorer health outcomes for their children.
Aside from myriad physical health benefits, insurance status is also associated with improved mental and financial health, as well as increased productivity and higher lifetime earnings. Women without health insurance are 31% more likely to be diagnosed with depression, five times more likely to have catastrophic medical spending and 58% more likely to be forced to borrow money to pay bills or skip payments because of unanticipated medical costs. Also, they face a significantly higher cost-related burden of health care compared to men in terms of paying off existing debt, delaying or skipping needed medical care and rationing or not filling prescription medications. The relationship between health insurance, health outcomes and workforce productivity is referred to as health human capital. The positive association between health and productivity produces short- and long-term gains in both compensation and productivity through fewer work days lost to illness, higher marginal productivity of labor and longer life expectancy.