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Unmarried Older Women Likely Not to Have Health Insurance


Unmarried older women are twice as likely to be without health insurance than are their married peers. This was the finding of a new policy brief from the University of California Center for Health Policy Research, which evaluated health issues and health insurance coverage among approximately 3 million older women.

According to Roberta Wyn, associate director of the center and the study’s lead author, women ages 50 to 64 face a “time of critical change,” because not only are they “at risk of new and complex health conditions, but as they near the age of retirement, their insurance status may change too.”

One reason is that women between the ages of 50 and 64 are more likely than younger women to have a variety of health issues, including asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. Nearly 40 percent of women in this age group have high blood pressure, nearly 60 percent are overweight or obese, and they are more likely to have osteoporosis, arthritis, and gynecological issues than their younger peers.

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The study, “Health and Health Care Access Among California women Ages 50-64,” also notes that the likelihood of women having health insurance is related to their marital status. When the study’s researchers analyzed data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey, they found that 25 percent of older women who have never married and 21 percent of those who are divorced, separated, or widowed did not have health insurance. This is more than twice the rate of married women.

Low-income women were the most likely to have no health insurance (34 percent) and the least likely to have coverage from an employer (24 percent). One-third of women who did not have health insurance said they delayed or did not get needed medical care in the past year, which is twice as high as women of the same age who had health insurance from their employer.

Wyn points out that their study utilized data collected from before the recession, and thus “the economic recession and subsequent widespread job loss may have pushed uninsurance rates even higher.” She also emphasized the need for expanded health insurance coverage for unmarried older women and access to health care that addresses their increasing health care needs associated with aging.

University of California, Los Angeles