Changing factors and changing needs in women's health care

L A Leslie, S M Swider
Nursing Clinics of North America 1986, 21 (1): 111-23
The aforementioned social trends affecting women, including women in poverty, women in the labor force, and elderly women, are all ultimately related to problems of access to health care. In almost every age group, women use more health and medical services. Women are hospitalized more often, although their stays in hospitals tend to be shorter. Women also make more visits to health care providers for preventive health care, such as examinations and dental care. Access to care, however, is tied to ability to pay for the care. Medicaid payments for medical care are related to eligibility criteria in each state. Recent cuts in federal programs targeted eligibility for welfare and Medicaid. In 1982, 725,000 welfare recipients were declared ineligible. Given the earlier discussion of the predominance of women among those labeled poor in this country and the fact that two thirds of Medicaid recipients are women, these cutbacks have serious implications for women's health. Women are less likely to have medical insurance than men. Insurance coverage as a benefit is least likely to be offered in those areas where women work: part-time employment, small businesses, and manufacturing industries. Insurance eligibility is often dependent on a woman's marital status, despite the fact that 41.5 per cent of all American women are not spousal dependents. Insurance companies frequently adjust premiums for sex, age, income, race, and workforce characteristics, a policy which works against women. As the field of women's health expands and receives more emphasis, the data reflecting the experiences of large groups of women will have to be collected and analyzed ever more carefully. Information collected should include physiologic, psychosocial, and economic factors that together affect the health status of women. These data may then be used to guide health policy decision making, as well as provide a basis for health promotion and disease prevention interventions with individual clients.

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