New JEC report reveals women experiencing double-whammy of losing health insurance coverage due to their own or spouse's loss

Aug 6, 2009
Press Release

Washington D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Chair of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), along with Rep. Elijah Cummings and Rep. Jim Moran released a JEC new report entitled, “Comprehensive Health Insurance Reform: An Essential Prescription for Women.” The report reveals that during the recession, women are experiencing a double-whammy of lost health insurance as they lose their insurance due to either their own or their spouse’s job loss. In addition, the JEC report chronicles the vulnerability created by women’s dependence on their spouse’s employer-sponsored health insurance, the unique risk of un-insurance for younger and older women, and the spike in newly uninsured children of unemployed single mothers.

To access the new JEC report, click here.

 

JEC Chair Maloney said, “Today’s report underscores the unique risks women face in losing their health insurance coverage, and their unique difficulties obtaining affordable, quality health insurance policies. The system is clearly broken – over one million women have lost their health insurance because their spouse lost their job. The comprehensive health care reform proposals offered by the Obama Administration and currently taking shape in Congress include numerous provisions that are critical to providing quality, affordable health care for all Americans, both women and men. Many of these solutions are a key part of the prescription for easing the burden on America’s women, for whom the status quo health care system is a failure.”

JEC Vice Chair Schumer said, “This report should be a wake-up call to all legislators that we simply cannot afford to ignore the needs of a 64 million plus population. Women and men have different health needs, which in turn makes them some of the most active participants in our health care system. This fact illuminates the harsh reality that women are growingly susceptible, both economically and physically, to the effects of our broken system. I join with Chairwoman Maloney in continuing to work with our colleagues in Congress on proposals that benefit all Americans, giving mothers, sisters, daughters and grandmothers the care they need and deserve."

Rep. Cummings said, “We cannot continue with a health care system that discriminates against our mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends. We must act now to pass the comprehensive health care reform under consideration by the Congress to ensure that all Americans—including women—have access to quality, affordable health care that covers their individual needs.”

Rep. Moran said, “Our current health system—the most expensive in the world—needs urgent surgery to insure women, especially those most grievously affected by the recession, receive equal care. For far too many women and their families, quality, affordable health care is out of reach. More than two out of every five low income women today lack health care insurance. With urgent warnings about a renewal of swine flu this fall and steep declines threatening even deeper cuts in state Medicaid funding, it is critical for us to act. Our goal—as Americans—should be to provide quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”

Key Findings From The JEC Report Include:

· Over one million women have lost their health insurance due to a spouse’s job loss during the current economic downturn. Women have lost 1.6 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007, and many of those women saw their health insurance benefits disappear along with their paychecks. Second, women whose spouses lose their jobs are also vulnerable to losing their health benefits, because so many women receive coverage through a spouse’s job-based plan. The Joint Economic Committee estimates that over 1.4 million women have lost health insurance benefits because of the contraction in the labor market since December 2007. 71 percent (1,001,913) lost their insurance due to a spouse’s job loss. 29 percent (414,964) of those women lost their insurance due to their own job loss.

· As a consequence of single mothers’ job loss, the Joint Economic Committee estimates that at least 121,000 children have lost health insurance coverage. The weak job market has been rough on single mothers; the number of unemployed female heads of household has increased 53 percent over the past twelve months. For many of these women, the loss of a job means not only a disappearing paycheck, but also the disappearance of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage for their families.

· Women between the ages of 55 and 64 are particularly vulnerable to losing their health insurance benefits because of their husbands’ transition from employer-sponsored coverage to Medicare. One recent study concludes that a husband’s transition from employer-sponsored coverage to Medicare at age 65 can be problematic for his younger wife. Many of these wives depended on their spouse’s employer-based coverage and are not yet age-eligible for Medicare. As a result, 75 percent of these women reported delaying filling prescriptions or taking fewer medications than prescribed because of cost.

· Younger women are particularly vulnerable to lacking adequate health insurance coverage. Over one-quarter (28 percent) of all young women (ages 19-24) do not have health insurance coverage. The weak job market has hit young workers particularly hard, with the unemployment rate amongst young women at 15.7 percent in June 2009, the highest in a quarter century and substantially higher than the national unemployment rate of 9.5 percent. The dismal job market means that young women are less likely than ever to have access to job-based coverage, and many women who once received coverage through a parent’s health insurance plan have seen this coverage evaporate with their parents’ jobs.

· 41 percent of all low-income women lack health insurance coverage. Because of wide variability in state Medicaid eligibility rules, millions of American women fall through the safety net every day. The devastating impact of the recession on state budgets has forced some states to further tighten Medicaid eligibility rules at precisely the time when need is growing fastest.

· The health consequences of inadequate coverage are more severe for women than for men. Women are more likely than men to run into problems receiving adequate medical care. Over a quarter (27 percent) of women had health problems requiring medical attention but were not able to see a doctor, compared to 21 percent of men. Similarly, nearly a quarter (22 percent) of women reported that they were unable to fill a needed prescription, as compared to 15 percent of men.

· While the financial burden of inadequate health insurance coverage weighs heavily on all Americans, uninsured and under-insured women suffer more severe economic consequences than do men. Women are more likely than men to deplete their savings accounts in order to pay medical bills. One-third of under-insured women deplete their savings to pay medical bills, as compared to a quarter of under-insured men. The disparity is comparable amongst the uninsured (34 percent of uninsured women as compared to 29 percent of uninsured men).

The comprehensive health care reform proposals offered by the Obama Administration and currently taking shape under the leadership of Democrats in the House and Senate includes numerous provisions that are critical to providing quality, affordable health care for all Americans, both women and men. Many of these solutions are a key part of the prescription for easing the burden on America’s women, for whom the status quo health care system is a failure.

To access the new JEC report, click here.

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