Women in Massachusetts Benefit from Health Reform, but Challenges Remain
07/13/2010

In a new report from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers examine lessons for national health reform from the Massachusetts experience.

Online PR News – 13-July-2010 – – Boston - For the first time since health care reform was enacted in Massachusetts in 2006, researchers have evaluated the experience and access to care through a women's health lens. They find that although reform has contributed to significant gains in health insurance coverage among women, barriers remain to accessing care due to high costs and complex administrative requirements.

"Women have a vitally important relationship with the health care system, both as consumers of medical services and as managers of family health. They are more vulnerable due to their lower incomes and frequent changes in eligibility for coverage," said Tracey Hyams, JD, MPH, Director of the Women's Health Policy and Advocacy Program at the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology at BWH and lead author of the report. "This report is the first step in understanding the impact of reform on women's health and presents a significant opportunity to inform the process of national health care reform."

Using data from multiple sources including the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Suffolk University's Center for Women's Health and Human Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health, researchers analyzed how health reform has impacted women's access to care. They found that overall, reform has improved health coverage for women of all demographic profiles and access to care has also improved. However, because women are less likely to have stable employer-sponsored health coverage and are more likely to cycle in and out of eligibility for different coverage programs due to life changes, gaps in coverage and access to specific services remain a challenge. Additionally, women face obstacles navigating complex administrative requirements.

"The system is increasingly complex with the range of coverage options, the number of providers and networks and available subsidies," said Hyams. "We recommend administrative simplification whenever possible by streamlining eligibility requirements and certification procedures, particularly integrating Medicaid and subsidized coverage."

As the cost of health care for everyone continues to grow, affordability remains a major challenge for many women in all income and demographic groups, but specifically for near-elderly women and those with moderate incomes. As Massachusetts continues to examine the possibility of reforming health care delivery as a way to contain costs, women should be invested in this process as a way to both reduce their individual health costs and as an opportunity to improve the administration of care.

To read the report, please go to http://www.brighamandwomens.org/ConnorsCenter/images/ConnorsCenter.pdf

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 777-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare, an integrated health care delivery network. In July of 2008, the hospital opened the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, the most advanced center of its kind. BWH is committed to excellence in patient care with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery. The BWH medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in quality improvement and patient safety initiatives and its dedication to educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Biomedical Research Institute (BRI), BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on human diseases, involving more than 860 physician-investigators and renowned biomedical scientists and faculty supported by more than $416 M in funding. BWH is also home to major landmark epidemiologic population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative. For more information about BWH, please visit http://www.brighamandwomens.org/.