Insurance gap found in study Older women less likely to have coverage.


WASHINGTON -- Women in their mid-40s and older are far more likely than their male contemporaries to lack health insurance, either because they are more often employed in part-time work or because coverage stops under their husbands' policies when they are widowed or divorced, according to a new report.

The report, by the Older Women's League, a Washington-based women's rights group, said that in the age bracket between 45 and 64, before women qualify for Medicare, only 55 percent of working women have health insurance provided by their own employers, as compared with 72 percent of men in the same age group.

"Women are likely to have low-paying jobs, work part-time and for small businesses, all of which contribute to lack of health insurance coverage," the report said.

About 35 percent of women between 45 and 64 are employed full time, compared with two-thirds of the men in this group, said the report, which was based on information from the Census Bureau, the Labor Department, the Health Insurance Association of America and other sources.

Black and Hispanic women in the older age groups are more likely than white women to lack health insurance, the report noted. That finding parallels research showing that minority groups, particularly Hispanic, are more likely to lack health insurance than the general population.

"Today, a negative diagnosis can mean financial disaster," Lou Glasse, president of the group, stated yesterday. "We can and must do better."

The report also noted that women's primary role in the care of elderly parents contributes to their lack of health insurance.

The report also noted that "mid-life women pay more out of pocket for physician services than mid-life men."

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