Millions of women of childbearing age still lack health insurance

October 16, 2000

Study shows ethnic disparities and some states have more uninsured

NEW YORK, OCT. 17, 2000 - The number of American women of childbearing age lacking health insurance has not significantly improved since 1998, with nearly 12 million women -- one in five -- uninsured, according to new data commissioned by the March of Dimes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The proportion of women aged 15 to 44 without health insurance is at 19.2 percent in 1999, down from 19.8 percent -- less than 1 percentage point -- from the previous year. The percentage of women of childbearing age lacking health insurance also varies widely by state, ranging from 30 percent of women in New Mexico to less than 10 percent in Minnesota.

These new figures were announced here today at a March of Dimes luncheon that marked the 50th anniversary of the Foundation's Mothers March campaign and the induction of Inside Edition anchor Deborah Norville as the campaign's new spokesperson. Ms. Norville delivered the data to a gathering of notables in entertainment, philanthropy and business.

"In addition, Hispanic and Native American women of childbearing age were about twice as likely as whites to lack insurance," Ms. Norville announced. "Thirty seven percent of Hispanic women and 35 percent of Native American women were uninsured, compared with 18 percent of whites. African American women, at 25 percent, and Asian women, at 24 percent, were also more likely than whites to be uninsured."

"Having health insurance matters," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes, in separate comment. "Studies have found that the uninsured report poorer health status, are less likely to have a usual source of medical care, and are more likely to delay or go without needed health care services. A lack of insurance coverage makes health services unaffordable for these women who may become pregnant, making it difficult for them to receive the health care they need."

While women are more likely to have health insurance when they are pregnant, a separate March of Dimes study shows nearly 14 percent of pregnant women were insured in 1997.

Approximately 59 percent of women aged 15 to 44 have family incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level. At these levels, some uninsured women are likely eligible for Medicaid or the State Children's Health Program (S-CHIP), if they are under age 19.

"Many more of these women would benefit if S-CHIP was expanded to provide coverage to pregnant women and parents as well as children" Dr. Howse said. For this reason, she continued, the March of Dimes is making improved access to coverage for women, infants and children a priority by: On Saturday, October 28, the March of Dimes will partner with Kmart Corporation in an "Insure Kids Now" program during national Make A Difference Day. Volunteers will staff Kmart stores nationwide to provide information about enrolling children in free or low-cost health insurance.
The March of Dimes is a national voluntary healthy agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies. For more information, visit the March of Dimes Web site at or call toll-free 1-888-MODIMES.

March of Dimes Foundation

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