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Nearly 19 Million US Women Uninsured in 2010

Update Date: Jul 13, 2012 11:39 AM EDT

According to a Commonwealth Fund, U.S. women are much more likely to struggle with medical bills and go without needed care than women in countries with universal coverage.

The report found that in 2010, almost 19 million - 20 percent- women ages 19-64 were uninsured. That number is up from almost 13 million in 2000. The report also said that almost 17 million women were underinsured in 2010 - up from 10 million in 2003.

According to the report, only eight percent of women will be uninsured once President Barack Obama's controversial Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.

Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins said women are uniquely at risk for being unable to afford the care they need.

"The Affordable Care Act will ensure that U.S. women have affordable, comprehensive health insurance that covers the services they need, including maternity care," Collins said. "And women will no longer have to worry about being denied coverage for a preexisting condition or that they will have to pay higher premiums because of their gender or health."

Researchers examined differences in how women fare in the U.S. compared to women in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K. All these countries have universal health insurance coverage.

According to researchers, 26 percent of women in the U.S. ages 19 - 64 had medical bill problems, compared to only 13 percent in Australia, 12 percent in France, and a mere 4 percent in Germany.

Nearly 40 percent of women in the U.S. spent at least $1,000 out-of-pocket medical costs over 2009-2010, compared to one-only 24 percent in Switzerland and 1 percent in Sweden. Women in the U.K. did not spend over $1,000 on medical costs.

More than 43 percent of women in the U.S. said that over 2009-2010 they went without recommended care, skipped seeing a doctor when they were sick, or failed to fill prescriptions because of cost, compared to 28 percent in Germany and Australia, 8 percent in the Netherlands, and 7 percent in the U.K.

Only 52 percent of women in the U.S. said they were confident that they would be able to afford the health care they need if they became seriously ill. In contrast, nearly all women in the U.K. - 91 percent - and 77 percent in the Netherlands and 76 percent in Switzerland were confident they could afford needed care.

According to researchers, the Affordable Care Act will help women.

In 2011, an estimated 20.4 million women benefitted from provisions requiring all private insurance plans in existence when the law passed in March 2010 to provide preventive services like screening for cervical, breast, and colon cancer, cholesterol checks, and osteoporosis and chlamydia screening without cost sharing.

Next month, private insurance plans will cover an additional set of preventive services tailored specifically for women, including family planning services, without cost sharing.

According to a recent Commonwealth Fund survey, in 2011 an estimated 3.1 million young women stayed on or joined their parents' health plans likely because of The Affordable Care Act provision requiring insurers that offer dependent coverage to let young adults enroll in their parents' health insurance until they are 26.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that 39.5 million women no longer have lifetime limits on what their health insurance plans cover because of the Affordable Care Act provision requiring insurers to remove them. Preexisting Condition Insurance Plans are available in all 50 states for people with health problems who have been uninsured for at least six months. Nearly 62,000 people have enrolled in the plans, more than half of whom are women.

Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act will be essential to ensuring the future affordability of health care for women and households.

"We are on the cusp of a remarkable feat-providing comprehensive, affordable health insurance to almost all American women," Davis said. "It is crucial that states actively work to implement the reform law and take full advantage of all the benefits the Affordable Care Act stands to offer to their residents so that all American families are able to benefit from the law's potential."

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