While women’s life expectancy continues to exceed that of men, these extra years are often spent managing chronic illness with limited access to and options for affordable health care and services. Better access to care is important because of the health caretaking role that women play for their families. Most health care decisions are made by women for children and spouses. In fact, an estimated 85% of all longterm care services are provided by family and friends, with women constituting 60% of informal caregivers, and this is often at the expense of their own health.
Almost 70.6% of women 45-54 are in the workforce and over 56% of women ages 55-64 are employed. Yet, health coverage lags. In the period from 1980 to 2005, the number of uninsured women rose, and the rate of those insured through employment fell.Even when they have health care, women face obstacles to effective use of that coverage because of the high costs. One third of continuously covered women ages 19-64 did not see a doctor for a medical condition or follow up with recommended medical tests and treatment due to lack of time and/or health care limits. Since women who reach age 65 can expect to live 20 more years, and more than 66% of Americans age 85 and older are women, advanced age often comes the need for greater longterm care services.
Among people age 75 or older, women are 60% more likely than men to need help with one or more of their activities of daily living. In fact, one in nine older women needs assistance with daily activities. In 2006, the average annual cost of a private room in a nursing home was $75,000; for a shared room, almost $67,000. Costs for home care averaged nearly $20 per hour.There are few choices for older women who wish to remain in their homes or in their communities. In the United States, the ability to obtain services that would help women maintain their autonomy and independence throughout their old age is lacking.
Health care for all is a women’s issue, and now that we have the Affordable Care Act (ACA), OWL will devote its health advocacy work to educating women and advocating for improvements. The 2011 OWL Mother’s Day Report outlines the ACA provisions that will affect the lives of 74 million women over the age of 40 who make up 24% of the U.S. population.