At What Cost? Payment for Abortion Care by U.S. Women



      Most U.S. abortion patients are poor or low-income, yet most pay several hundred dollars out of pocket for these services. This study explores how women procure these funds.


      iPad-administered surveys were implemented among 639 women obtaining abortions at six geographically diverse healthcare facilities. Women provided information about insurance coverage, payment for service, acquisition of funds, and ancillary costs incurred.


      Only 36% of the sample lacked health insurance, but at least 69% were paying out of pocket for abortion care. Women were twice as likely to pay using Medicaid (16% of abortions) than private health insurance (7%). The most common reason women were not using private insurance was because it did not cover the procedure (46%), or they were unsure if it was covered (29%). Among women who did not use insurance for their abortion, 52% found it difficult to pay for the procedure. One half of patients relied on someone else to help cover costs, most commonly the man involved in the pregnancy. Most women incurred ancillary expenses in the form of transportation (mean, $44), and a minority also reported lost wages (mean, $198), childcare expenses (mean, $57) and other travel-related costs (mean, $140). Substantial minorities also delayed or did not pay bills such as rent (14%), food (16%), or utilities and other bills (30%) to pay for the abortion.


      Public and private health insurance plan coverage of abortion care services could ease the financial strain experienced by abortion patients, many of whom are low income.


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      Rachel K. Jones, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate at the Guttmacher Institute.


      Ushma D. Upadhyay, PhD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).


      Tracy A. Weitz, PhD, MPA, is an Associate Professor, in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology R.S. and the Director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), both at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).