The XX Factor

Women Can’t Find the Time to See Their Doctors

Getting a basic checkup is harder for women than you’d think, even if they have insurance. 

Photo by Thierry Zoccolan/AFP/Getty Images

Critics of Obamacare have a lot of complaints, but one major objection is to the ban on charging women more for health insurance based solely on their gender, known as gender rating. The claim is that women should be charged more for health insurance because they use it more. A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation makes it clear, however, that it’s not that simple. Women are more likely to put off or miss going to the doctor than men are.* Olga Khazan at the Atlantic explains:

More than a quarter of women—26 percent—delayed care in the past year because of cost, compared to 20 percent of men, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of nearly 3,000 women released this morning. And as expected, uninsured women were far more likely to face cost barriers than either insured women or those on Medicaid.

But it wasn’t just a matter of being insured versus not being insured. Women face a variety of logistical obstacles that make timely visits to the doctor difficult to pull off. Of particular concern is an inability to get time off. Despite all the discourse about how women “choose” to put family and other life obligations before work, the brutal reality is that many women can’t even prioritize their own health care needs over work. 

Kaiser Family Foundation

While “can’t find the time” to go to the doctor was a problem that cut across many economic levels, having to get child care, transportation, and your boss’s permission for time off work affected low-income women more. This is why acquiring mandatory paid sick days for all employees was such a major issue in New York City recently. Being able to cut out of work early to go to the doctor seems like a normal, everyday part of life for many of us, but for people who work low-wage, often hourly jobs, having to stifle concerns about your health to make it to work and get enough money to pay the rent is unfortunately a common problem. And forget about actually bothering with preventive care. Twenty-eight percent of women at 200 percent of the poverty line or lower have not been able to get a checkup in the past two years. It’s not just a matter of having health insurance, either, as 19 percent of women with Medicaid hadn’t had a checkup in two years. 

All this suggests that, despite the way it was treated like some kind of earth-shattering revolution, the Affordable Care Act is a really limited piece of legislation. Getting people into a health care plan is a good start, but it doesn’t fix problems with child care, lack of paid sick days, lack of transportation, and inability to come up with the money for a copay. Much more needs to be done so that merely seeing a doctor isn’t a herculean task that is out of reach for so many people. 

*Correction, May 21, 2014: Due to an editing error, this post originally implied in the text and in a headline that women go to the doctor less often than men do. The report this post is based on actually states that women face more obstacles getting to the doctor than men do and therefore are more likely to put off seeing their health care professionals than men are.