Doctor who?

December 7, 2017

It’s not from an overabundance of optimism—but more from a perceived shortfall of cash on hand—that American women put off their visits to the doctors, according to the findings of a Gallup poll of over 1,000 U.S. adults, released on December 6.

More than one-third of American women (37%) report that they put off medical treatment within the past year because of cost, compared with less than one-quarter of U.S. men (22%). A gender gap in delaying medical care has appeared consistently in Gallup’s annual measurement since 2001.

Both men and women have access to the same type of care. Indeed, data from Gallup’s healthcare poll, conducted November 2 through November 8,  reveal little, if any, difference between men’s and women’s assessments of the quality, coverage or cost of their healthcare.

No differences exist in the kind of insurance they have either — be it private, government, or none at all — which, Gallup has found, affects the likelihood of whether an adult will put off seeking medical treatment.

What’s more, no gender gap exists in the reported severity of medical conditions among those who have put off receiving treatment because of cost.

In fact, among those who say that they or someone in their household has put off medical treatment in the past year, nearly two in three (63%) describe the condition for which they delayed care as “very” or “somewhat serious.” More than one-third (35%) describe it as “not very serious” or “not at all serious.”

One potential reason? According to the private healthcare research foundation, The Commonwealth Fund, women require more healthcare services and pay higher out-of-pocket medical costs during their reproductive years than men do. Women’s more frequent healthcare needs and higher cost potentially help explain why they end up being more likely to postpone needed medical care.

This makes sense, because in later years, women are less likely to avoid the doctor. The gender gap in putting off care narrows with each increasing age bracket—but even among adults age 65 and older, women are more likely to report holding off on receiving their own or another family member’s medical treatment.

The gender gap also narrows with each higher income group—and among households earning $75,000 or more a year, the slightly higher figure for women is not significantly different from that of men.

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