Objective and methods: Using data from bi-national 1998 surveys of adult women in the U.S. and in Israel, this article examines health, access, and care experiences among women in two countries with very different health care systems. We examine how well each country's system serves those vulnerable due to lower socio-economic status. The Israeli health care system-characterized by universal coverage for all its residents-relies on a system of competing health funds that employ many features typical of U.S. managed care plans. The analysis explores the extent to which such a system helps to equalize access experiences with contrasts to the experiences of U.S. women. Findings: We find that U.S. and Israeli women report similar rates of disability and chronic conditions with prevalence of health problems sharply higher for low income and less educated women. We also find disparities in access: women in both countries reported unequal access experiences by education and income. In Israel, these experiences appear to be linked to health plan structural features rather than cost barriers. Conclusion: The findings indicate that achieving more equitable access to health care requires attention to non-financial as well as financial barriers to care. Despite the lack of financial barriers to care in Israel, administrative controls typical of managed care organizations appear to make health care systems difficult to navigate for low income and less educated women. The finding that disparities in health persist in a country with universal coverage indicates that improving women's health will require attention to broader social influences on health as well as improving access to health care.
- United States