A report issued Monday by the Older Women's League (OWL) reveals that women, who make up the majority of Medicare recipients, suffer more chronic illness, use more long-term care, and spend more of their own money on health care.
Titled, "The Face of Medicare Is a Woman You Know" and funded by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the report argues that Medicare guidelines and policies must be re-written with women's needs in mind, given that women need Medicare the most and are more likely than older men to live in poverty. The report was issued as part of a national public education campaign called "Women and the Future of Medicare."
OWL national president Betty Lee Ongley explained, "If Medicare works for women, it will work for everyone. The typical Medicare beneficiary is your mom, your grandmother, the woman next door. Understanding who Medicare serves and what they need is essential as Congress begins to look at changing the program."
Among the reports specific findings:
Women make up 58% of Medicare recipients at age 65, and 71% at age 85.
Women age 65 and older are twice as likely as their male counterparts to be poor.
Women live six years longer than men on average.
Women suffer more chronic illnesses and conditions than do men, are more likely to live alone, and more likely to require long-term care.
In light of these findings, the report criticized the Medicare program's lack of long-term care benefits, its lack of coverage for prescription drugs, and the lack of cost-controls on health services. Study authors advocated widening Medicare benefits, increasing consumer and financial protections, and resolving fiscal problems to sustain the Medicare system.
As part of their "Women and the Future of Medicare" campaign, OWL has organized dozens of local events and will send cards to Congress on Mother's Day, educating them about how Medicare policies affect women.