Introduction: Largely a consequence of historical gender differences in labor force attachment in the United States, many women rely on their spouse for health insurance coverage, particularly during late middle age. Prior research finds that this creates a window of vulnerability for women during late middle age who may lose their (older) spouse's employment-based coverage when he retires from the labor force and enrolls in Medicare. However, the few studies that have examined this window of vulnerability have been based primarily on white adults. Methods: We used the 2004 and 2006 Annual Social and Economic Supplements to the Current Population Survey to examine whether the window of vulnerability exists among non-Hispanic Black, Mexican-origin, and non-Hispanic White women 55 to 64 years of age, and whether similar factors contribute to the vulnerability across these race/ethnic groups. Results: Women 55 to 64 years of age married to men 65 years or older had an elevated risk of lacking coverage at a time of life when health problems are common and expensive. Among non-Hispanic White women, their husband's exit from full-time employment accounted for the higher risk, whereas a more complex and systemic set of social factors contributed to the higher risk among non-Hispanic Black and Mexican-origin women. Conclusion: Ensuring adequate and affordable health insurance coverage among women during late middle age may require additional health care reforms such as extending Medicare eligibility to younger adults or basing Medicare age eligibility on the age of the older partner within a married couple.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Maternity and Midwifery
- Health(social science)