There are many different settings in which women can receive health care. For women of
all ages, having a primary care provider is the place to start. Primary care providers are
able to deal with most common medical problems. Most primary care providers will have a
network of colleagues they can recommend for specialty services. Your health care needs
are best met when your care is coordinated between your primary care provider and your
Primary care providers are trained in family medicine, internal medicine and
gynecology. Good primary care providers should be able to deal with most common medical
problems, from musculoskeletal conditions to skin conditions to common infections, etc.
They should also be skilled in preventive health care, including pap smears, clinical
breast exams, mammography services, family planning, and information on exercise, diet,
smoking cessation, and other healthy lifestyle choices. Primary care providers should also
be skilled in talking to you about stress, past trauma and violence and be able to
recognize signs of depression and anxiety, both very common in women.
In some health plans, primary care providers can be an obstetrician-gynecologist. Other
health plans use internists as primary care providers, and view ob-gyns as specialists.
Many women in our country are not eligible for Medicaid, because their family income is
too high to qualify, yet they do not receive health care benefits through their place of
work. For most such individuals, buying separate health insurance may be too expensive.
This puts many women and their families in a difficult position.
The rules for Medicaid coverage are determined by each state. Many states have
developed or are developing systems to try to provide insurance to working individuals and
their families who are currently not covered. Many working families are also eligible for
benefits for their children. These benefits cover such important services as annual check
ups, and immunizations.
All hospitals also have some money provided by the federal government under the
Hill-Burton Act to provide care to individuals with no health insurance.
There is no single way in each state to find out about which programs may be available
to you. Women can contact the patient financial assistance office, patient referral line,
or patient advocate provided by the hospital, to find out about alternative resources for
health care coverage.
All states and most territories have specialized programs that offer breast and
cervical cancer screening to women without health insurance. The local state health
department or the local chapter of the American Cancer Society can provide you with
information about these programs.