Many Women Use Preventive Services, but Gaps in Awareness of Insurance Coverage Requirements Persist: Findings from the 2022 KFF Women’s Health Survey
- Three in four (76%) women ages 50-64 report that they had a mammogram in the past two years, with higher shares of Black women (86%) and substantially lower shares of uninsured women (45%).
- Forty-four percent of uninsured women ages 50-64 who have not had a mammogram in the past two years say this is because they could not afford one.
- Thirty-eight percent of women ages 45-64 report having a colon cancer screening in the past two years, including slightly higher shares of Black women (44%) and women with Medicaid (44%) and a lower share of uninsured women (16%).
- Many women ages 18-64 went without or delayed health care services they were due for in the past two years, most frequently for dental care (52%).
- The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most health insurance plans to cover birth control for women without cost sharing; however, more than four in ten (43%) women ages 18-64 are unaware of this coverage requirement. Smaller shares were unaware that an annual check-up for women (19%) and cervical cancer screenings (20%) are also required to be covered.
- Women with higher incomes and those with higher educational attainment are more likely than women with lower incomes and less educational attainment to know that annual check-ups for women and cervical cancer screenings must be covered without cost sharing. Knowledge of no-cost coverage of birth control for women was similar across education levels.
Evidence-based preventive services can improve health by identifying illnesses earlier, managing them more effectively, and treating them before they progress into more complicated and debilitating conditions. Since 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has required most private health insurance plans to cover a range of recommended preventive services for adults without any patient cost-sharing. Over the years, there have been numerous updates and additions to the range of services covered under this policy, and today the slate includes a number of cancer screenings, immunizations, and behavioral health services such as tobacco cessation and weight management services. Some services are specific to women, including annual checkups, prenatal tests, screening for intimate partner violence, and prescription contraceptive services. Despite the policy’s wide reach, there have been several legal challenges over elements of the preventive services requirement since it initially took effect, including in a pending case, Braidwood Management Inc. v. Becerra.
This data note presents findings from the 2022 KFF Women’s Health Survey (WHS) on women’s receipt of cancer screenings and other preventive services and differences between subgroups of women. We also present data on women’s and men’s awareness of federal requirements for private insurance coverage of preventive services. The KFF WHS is a nationally representative survey of 5,145 self-identified women and 1,225 men ages 18 to 64, conducted May 10 – June 7, 2022. See the Methodology section for more details.
Use of preventive services can lead to early identification of conditions when they are more responsive to medical interventions. This is especially true for certain types of cancers and cardiovascular conditions. For example, the USPSTF recommends routine mammograms every two years for women ages 50-741 to detect breast cancer, depending on risk factors, as well as colorectal cancer screenings for women ages 45-75, though the recommended frequency ranges from yearly to every ten years depending on the type of screening test. These services are covered in full by most private plans under the ACA’s preventive services coverage requirements and by most state Medicaid programs.2
The majority of women ages 50-64 say they have had a mammogram in the past two years, with higher rates among Black women.
Three-quarters (76%) of women ages 50-64 report having had a mammogram in the past two years (Table 1). A higher share of Black women (86%) report having a mammogram than White women (75%) and Hispanic women (69%). A considerably higher share of insured women (78%) than those who are uninsured (45%) had a mammogram in the past two years. The survey did not find any statistically significant differences in recent mammogram rates by low- vs. higher-income or urbanicity/rurality.
Fewer women ages 45-64 have had a recent colon cancer screening in the past two years, with lower rates among the uninsured.
Fewer than two in five (38%) women ages 45-64 report having a recent colon cancer screening in the past two years (Table 1). A higher share of women with Medicaid coverage (44%) and private health insurance (38%) reported having a colon cancer screening in the past two years than uninsured women (16%). There were no statistically significant differences in recent colon cancer screening rates among women of different races/ethnicities, income, or urban/rural residence.
Many women ages 50-64 have not had a mammogram in the past two years because they didn’t think they needed one or that they were not due for one.
Among women ages 50-64 who have not had a mammogram in the past two years, 28% say the main reason was that they didn’t think they needed it or they were not due for it (Figure 1). Fourteen percent say they did not get a mammogram because they were worried about being exposed to COVID-19 and 11% say they couldn’t afford it or that insurance wouldn’t cover it. Smaller shares say they couldn’t get an appointment or didn’t know where to get it (5%). Four in ten (41%) report that they did not get a mammogram in the past two years for some other reason.
The share of women who did have not had a mammogram in the past two years because they couldn’t afford it or because insurance would not cover it is higher among uninsured than insured women (44% vs. 5%) and higher among low-income women than higher-income women (18% vs. 8%) (data not shown).
Many women went without or delayed health care services they were due for in the past two years.
Most notably, more than half (52%) of women ages 18-64 report that they delayed or went without a dental visit (Figure 2). One-third of women ages 21-64 went without or delayed getting a pap smear. Seventeen percent went without or delayed vaccines other than those for COVID-19. More than one in five (22%) women ages 18-64 with children under 18 say their child went without or delayed a well-visit.
Knowledge of the Affordable Care Act
For ten years, the Affordable Care Act has required most health plans to cover recommended preventive health care services and medications at no cost to the enrollee. Although most people are aware of some of these benefits, over a decade later, a sizeable share is still unaware, particularly about coverage for contraception.
More than two in five (43%) women ages 18-64 did not know that most health insurance plans must cover the full cost of birth control for women, and more than one-third (37%) incorrectly responded that vasectomies must be covered. Although most plans are required to cover contraception for women, and without cost sharing, contraception for men such as male condoms and vasectomies is not required to be covered (Figure 3).
One in five women did not know that an annual check-up for women (19%) or a cervical cancer screening (20%) must be covered without cost sharing, and one-third (32%) incorrectly believed erectile dysfunction medication must be covered.
A higher share of women than men correctly identified that the benefits specifically for women (an annual check-up, cervical cancer screenings, and birth control) are required to be covered without cost sharing. A higher share of men than women correctly responded that vasectomies are not required to be covered. There was no statistically significant difference between the share of women and men who correctly responded that erectile dysfunction medication is also not required to be covered without cost sharing.
Knowledge about the ACA’s no-cost preventive services coverage requirements varies by sociodemographic characteristics.
A smaller share of younger women than older women know that most health plans are required to cover annual check-ups and cervical cancer screenings without cost sharing, but a higher share of younger women than older women know that vasectomies are not required to be covered without cost sharing (Table 2). In addition, a smaller share of women with less education and lower incomes are aware of the coverage requirements for check-ups and cervical cancer screenings than their counterparts. Awareness of birth control coverage requirements was similar across education levels.
Coverage for preventive services is an established part of health plan benefits for most people in the United States today. However, this survey finds that not all women are aware of the no-cost coverage requirements for some preventive services, notably contraception. Lack of awareness of these coverage requirements means that some people may be less likely to obtain these services due to concerns about cost sharing. The outcome of a pending legal case could jeopardize the federal government’s authority to require plans to cover preventive services. Should the court ultimately rule in favor of the plaintiffs, millions of people who now have guaranteed coverage of preventive services without cost sharing could see this benefit eroded in the future.