Vice President and Director, Women’s Health Care Policy
Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
Short Bio, now available at KaiserEDU.org
Women's Health Policy page at the Kaiser Family Foundation
NPR interview with Jennifer Ludden, "High Costs Undermine Women's Health" (listen online)
“Beyond the Pap Smear: Health Policy Through a Women’s Lens”
The Institute for Research on Women’s 2006-2007 Distinguished Lecture Series on Health and Bodies began October 5 with a talk by Dr. Alina Salganicoff, Vice President and Director of Women’s Health Policy at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. In “Beyond the Pap Smear: Health Policy Through a Women’s Lens,” Dr. Salganicoff summarized findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2004 Women’s Health Survey and discussed its policy implications.
In 2004 the Kaiser Family Foundation expanded its path-breaking 2001 survey of women and health to further explore women’s challenges and interactions with the health care system. The revised survey addressed affordability issues, preventive care and provider counseling, extent of prescription drug use, and use of reproductive health services, as well as the health experiences of menopausal women and women over age 65.
The findings are based on a nationally representative sample of 2,766 women ages 18 and older that were interviewed by telephone in the summer and fall of 2004. This survey presents an overview and profile of women’s health coverage and contributes the latest data on fundamental issues concerning women’s health policy that includes women’s demographics, health status, the impact of health care costs on women’s access to care and prescription drugs, the impact that the responsibility for overseeing the health care of their families has on their health and well-being, and the changes that occurred between the 2001 and 2004 women’s health surveys. Survey findings summarize the health status and insurance coverage of women of different ages, incomes, races and ethnicities.
Analyzing this data promotes a better understanding of many of the challenges that are affecting the different subgroups of women. Dr. Salganicoff’s lecture focused on these findings to discuss why women need health care, why they are underinsured, and why their access and needs are different from men. Dr. Salganicoff cited the 2004 Survey to illustrate that income, education, and employment are all associated with health status, insurance coverage, and access to care. Since only half of all women complete a high school education, many women will likely experience socioeconomic disadvantage. Women are more likely than men to be live on low incomes. Low-income women are more likely to experience a range of chronic health problems. They thus have greater health care needs than most men and than women with higher incomes.
Although job-based coverage is the primary source of insurance for non-elderly women, only 41% of the women reported that they worked full time. About a third of all non-elderly women with health insurance (35%) had coverage through their own employer; another 29% received insurance as a dependent through family coverage. Women who are young, single, working part-time or unemployed are at the highest risk for being uninsured as a result of their lower incomes and lack of access to employment-based coverage.
Because women’s lifespans are longer than men’s, women are more likely to have health problems as they age. Furthermore, since many women access health care coverage through employee benefits provided to their husbands, divorce or the death of their partners means their coverage is terminated.
Women of color are more likely than white women or men of color to work in low-wage jobs, have disproportionately lower incomes, and are less likely to be offered coverage by their employers. Among all women, Latinas are the least likely to have insurance and have a much lower rate of employer-sponsored coverage rate. Similarly, African American women also have a low employer-sponsored coverage rate and higher rates of Medicaid coverage than white women.
Women also access the health care system differently than their male counterparts. About half of all women visit an ob-gyn annually and overall more women than men visit their health care providers each year. However, many women report that they do not have the time to receive medical care due to their job and child care responsibilities.
Women’s higher incidence of chronic health problems and lifetime need for reproductive health services reinforces their unique relationship to the health care system. The division between reproductive health and other health needs that often require the use of multiple providers can create fragmented health care for women.
In creating national health policies, policymakers must take into account that women have different health care needs and exhibit different patterns for accessing the health system than men, are more likely to develop a chronic illness or condition as they age, are less likely to have employer-sponsored health care and are more likely to be a dependent on someone else’s policy, and are less likely to seek medical care due to their familial and job responsibilities.
For more information about the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2004 Women’s Health Survey please visit the Foundation’s website at www.kff.org.