Delaying Preventive Care Can Be Especially Harmful for Women

Women are often the primary caregivers in families and communities. However, they sometimes neglect their own healthcare needs in the process of assisting their loved ones. For example, according to UCI Health, preventive breast and cervical cancer screenings declined by 94% in the U.S. in 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Preventive healthcare services may help prevent illnesses and disease, and help women detect health problems at an early stage when they are most treatable. For example, a top area of concern for women is breast health, since postponing a mammogram could also delay a breast cancer diagnoses.

Weight gain is also a concern, since this may be associated with other health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure. The pandemic also has affected the mental health of both women and men, causing many to experience long-term symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Health providers recommend annual-check-ups and regular screenings for women as they go through life, depending on their age and individual health needs. Getting the right preventive services at the right time can help women stay healthier longer.

These include, but are not limited to, an annual physical, with bloodwork or other tests as prescribed by your doctor; an annual well-woman exam, with cervical screenings as prescribed by your doctor; annual mammograms starting at age 40; treatment for chronic conditions such as high blood-pressure, diabetes and auto-immune disease; and other screenings for conditions such as heart disease and osteoporosis.

Findings from the 2022 Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Women’s Health Survey indicate many women use preventive services, but gaps in awareness of insurance coverage requirements still exist. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Three in four (76%) women ages 50-64 report that they had a mammogram in the past two years, with higher shares of Black women (86%) and substantially lower shares of uninsured women (45%).
  • Forty-four percent of uninsured women ages 50-64 who have not had a mammogram in the past two years say this is because they could not afford one.
  • Thirty-eight percent of women ages 45-64 report having a colon cancer screening in the past two years, including slightly higher shares of Black women (44%) and women with Medicaid (44%) and a lower share of uninsured women (16%).
  • Many women ages 18-64 went without or delayed health care services they were due for in the past two years, most frequently for dental care (52%).
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most health insurance plans to cover birth control for women without cost sharing; however, more than four in ten (43%) women ages 18-64 are unaware of this coverage requirement. Smaller shares were unaware that an annual check-up for women (19%) and cervical cancer screenings (20%) are also required to be covered.
  • Women with higher incomes and those with higher educational attainment are more likely than women with lower incomes and less educational attainment to know that annual check-ups for women and cervical cancer screenings must be covered without cost sharing. Knowledge of no-cost coverage of birth control for women was similar across education levels.

Health experts agree preventive services can improve women’s health by identifying illnesses earlier, managing them more effectively, and treating them before they progress into more complicated and debilitating conditions.

For a decade, most health plans have been required to cover recommended preventive care services and medications at no cost to members. However, many women are not aware of the no-cost coverage requirements, which means they may be less likely to obtain medical and behavioral healthcare.

This makes it more important than ever to increase awareness and education about the importance of preventive care to the overall health and wellbeing of women. To stay on track with recommended preventive care, please click here to view a chart of women’s health screenings by age.

Pacific Federal is a Zenith American company and subsidiary of Harbour Benefit Holdings, Inc.