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The Coverage Gap Poses Risks to Low Income Women's Health

Did you know that in the last 12 months nearly 60 percent of low-income uninsured women went without needed care because of cost? Or that in 2012 only 46 percent of low-income uninsured women received their recommended mammograms? What if we told you that states could take action to solve this problem today? And the federal government would start out paying for the full cost of this policy, and ultimately cover 90 percent of the bill?

You might be surprised, but this option is immediately available to all states. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states may expand coverage through their Medicaid programs, providing health insurance to millions of low-income Americans. Yet twenty-five states have not done this, leaving over three million women in a coverage gap. This gap results from states’ failure to expand coverage and applies to individuals with incomes below the poverty level (approximately $11,500 for an individual) who do not qualify for traditional Medicaid. Women with income above poverty are eligible for subsidies for private health insurance available through their state Marketplace.

A new report from the National Women’s Law Center illustrates the risk the coverage gap poses to low-income women’s health. More specifically, the report shows that women in the coverage gap also experience a health care gap. In general, low-income women without health insurance are significantly less likely to access basic health care services on a regular basis and are less likely to use important preventive services than women who have similarly low incomes but who are covered by public or private health insurance.

There are also great disparities in access to care on the state level. For example:

·         In Oklahoma, insured low-income women received their recommended mammograms approximately 2.3 times as often as low-income women without insurance.

·         In Texas, insured, low-income women report having a regular health care provider twice as often as low-income women without health coverage.

·         In Pennsylvania, only 41 percent of low-income women without insurance received their recommended colon cancer screenings, compared to nearly 70 percent of low-income insured women.

Women will continue to suffer from limited access to care if they remain in the coverage gap between today’s Medicaid program and the new coverage of the ACA. If, however, states accept this federal money and expand coverage through Medicaid, they would ensure that all low-income women can access the care they need to lead healthier lives.

 

To see the full report, please visit: www.nwlc.org/mindthegap

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