(CNN) — More women than men skipped health care services during the pandemic, and a disproportionate share of those with prior health or economic issues have experienced worsening health conditions as a result, according to a report released Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The report’s authors say the gaps in care could result in more women suffering severe health issues after the pandemic ends.
KFF surveyed 3,661 women and 1,144 men in November and December of 2020. They found that 38% of women reported skipping preventive health services during the pandemic, compared to 26% of men. Women were also more likely to report skipping recommended tests and treatment and being unable to get a health care appointment because of the pandemic.
Women who reported being in fair or poor health were more likely to have skipped care than those who said they were in good or excellent health.
“This gap in care among those with the greatest health problems could portend an increase of the share of patients experiencing more severe health conditions resulting from care that was forgone or delayed during the pandemic,” Brittni Frederiksen, a senior policy analyst for women’s health policy at the Foundation, and colleagues wrote.
About 27% of women who reported being in fair or poor health said their health conditions worsened due to skipped care, compared to 12% who said they were in good or excellent health. About 21% of low-income women, compared to 13% of higher income women, reported worsening conditions.
“Nearly one in 10 women ages 18-25 (8%) and 7% of women ages 26-35 say they delayed or were not able to get birth control due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the researchers wrote. “Individuals who face delays in contraceptive care could face negative health consequences, such as sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancies.”
Women with higher incomes, private insurance and Medicaid were all more likely to have skipped preventive health services than those with lower incomes and women who were uninsured. The authors note that the reverse was true before the pandemic and suggest women with more resources are now skipping care because they are worried about Covid exposure.
While the report shows that most women have been satisfied with telehealth during the pandemic, the researchers said it’s unclear whether the requirements for payment parity for these options will end once emergency pandemic measures are lifted.
“Policies that promote stable insurance coverage, access to telehealth and mental health services, and the availability of safe in-person care can support women in obtaining needed health care for the remainder of the pandemic and beyond,” they wrote.