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45% of Women Forego Preventive Care Access, Care Costs a Key Barrier

For 25 percent of the half of women going without preventive care access, the high cost of healthcare is the biggest barrier.

High healthcare costs are keeping nearly half of American women from preventive care access, according to a new Ipsos poll fielded on behalf of the Alliance for Women’s Health and Prevention (AWHP).

The survey, which gathered responses from 3,200 adult women, showed that 45 percent went without access to preventive screenings, check-ups, or vaccines in the past 12 months. For a quarter of them, cost was the biggest barrier to care access.

"The survey results emphasize the need to raise awareness about the importance of preventive care and advocate for policies that address the barriers and burdens women too often face," Millicent Gorham, chair of the board of directors of AWHP, stated publicly. "At the same time, the research also underscores the importance of organizations like AWHP advocating for equitable, accessible and affordable preventive care for all women and girls."

Patient access to preventive care has been a big issue for the past three years after the novel coronavirus shuttered the doors of clinics and primary care offices nationwide. Although that shutdown lasted just a few months, the fear of catching the virus kept some out of the doctor’s office, putting a stop to preventive care access across many demographics.

Although some offices report they are seeing care gaps close, this survey showed that access to preventive care is still low for many women. In the past 12 months, 22 percent of women said they had skipped an annual checkup or a routine test. Another 22 percent said they skipped getting a vaccine recommended by a healthcare professional, and 14 percent said they skipped a medical test or treatment.

For some women, it wasn’t for lack of trying. It’s been hard for them to get an appointment with their providers, with 12 percent saying they couldn’t get an appointment with their primary care provider, 6 percent not being able to get an appointment with an OBGYN, and 4 percent not being able to get an appointment for screening.

Moreover, 25 percent of women said they could not afford to access healthcare, the survey showed, underscoring the role that high healthcare costs are playing in patient engagement and well-being.

And like much of healthcare, race plays a role in preventive care access, the survey continued. Looking specifically at cervical cancer screenings, the researchers found that White women are more likely than Black women to have accessed care.

Most women, regardless of race, have had at least one cervical cancer screening in their lifetime, the survey found, with 76 percent of respondents saying as much. But when broken down by race, that comes out to 81 percent of White women, 68 percent of Hispanic women, 66 percent of Asian women, and 65 percent of Black women who have received a screening.

There are also disparities in terms of insurance coverage, with women with insurance being more likely to get a cervical cancer screening than those without—79 versus 51 percent, respectively. That trend holds true when comparing preventive care access among Medicaid members compared to those with other types of insurance.

This trend is notable, the researchers said, considering the disparities in cervical cancer occurrence. Hispanic women have higher rates of new cervical cancer, according to the Office of Minority Health. Meanwhile, separate data has shown that Black women are more likely to die from cervical cancer.

Healthcare providers looking to increase cervical cancer screening rates should leverage their patient-provider relationships, the survey indicated. Around three-quarters (72 percent) of women said they would be more likely to get a cervical cancer screening if their provider recommended it.

Additionally, better insurance coverage and access to insurance could help close the gap. Only a third of women said they’d get a cervical cancer screening even if it wasn’t covered by their insurance, highlighting the importance affordability and payer coverage plays in preventive care access.

"As we close out Cervical Health Awareness Month, it is crucial we learn from these data showcasing major gaps in cervical cancer screenings," Haywood Brown, MD, member of the board of directors of AWHP, said in the press release. "We must take action to ensure all women, regardless of who they are and where they live, routinely see an OBGYN and receive screenings for cervical cancer."

The high cost of healthcare has also been damaging to men's health, according to a 2022 report from the Commonwealth Fund. Healthcare access for American men is worse than for men in other similarly developed nations, with the high cost of care and insurance coverage keeping men from accessing healthcare.

Specifically, men in the United States are less likely to have a usual source of care, more likely to skip necessary care because of cost-related problems, and more likely to report difficulty paying a medical bill.

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