Women And Health Care During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the way people access health care. Care quickly moving to telemedicine. With the fear of contracting the coronavirus and state emergency declarations limiting non-essential and elective services in the early days of the pandemic, many people have gone without health care services this year. The on-going pandemic situation has thrown a spotlight on long-standing inequities in healthcare availability and access. Recently a survey of women was conducted with the intention of evaluating quality of care throughout the pandemic.

Women are more likely than men to have gone without health care during the pandemic. When asked about their experiences accessing health care services during the pandemic, a larger share of women said they have skipped preventive health services — a yearly check-up or routine test (38%) or skipped a recommended medical test or treatment (23%). And nearly half of the women who report being in fair or poor health claimed to have skipped preventive care (46%), with nearly one-third skipping recommended tests or treatments (32%). This is compared to women who reported being in good, very good, or excellent health (36% and 21%). Further, those in poor health may view themselves to be even more at risk for COVID exposure, opting to completely skip routine preventive care and testing.

A larger share of women have gone without health care services during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly women in fair or poor health.

Finally, women who were experiencing health and economic challenges prior to the pandemic have experienced the worsening of these health conditions as a result of skipping health care services during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the gap in this care may translate into higher numbers of women experiencing severe health issues after the pandemic finally resolves. Only time will tell.

Further, telemedicine has certainly played an important part in extending care throughout the pandemic. The share of people who have had a telemedicine visit during the pandemic tripled over that experience prior to the pandemic. HOWEVER, not all people have the opportunity or access to telemedicine. Older women, women with higher educational attainment, insured women, and women living in states that have expanded Medicaid are more likely to have access to telehealth options during the pandemic. That said, is it still not clear whether telehealth will continue to be an option providers and health consumers will continue to offer and utilize as the risk of exposure to the coronavirus recedes.

The pandemic has had a significant effect on people’s mental health. 51% of women saying that worry or stress related to the pandemic has affected their mental health. Most say that the impact has been moderate or minor, but almost one-fifth (21% women) say this has been a major impact on their mental health. The high need for mental health care has highlighted long-standing gaps in the availability of mental care. This also signals that the demand for care will likely continue to rise as people process the trauma and loss they have experienced over the past years.

Read more survey details here.

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