Executive Summary

Through a nationally representative study of more than 3,000 women who manage their family’s healthcare, Willow Research and PNC Healthcare examined their experiences navigating the healthcare system in the United States: what is working well for them, where there are difficulties, and what they need to keep themselves and their families healthy.

The research was conducted from January 2020 through August 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and reveals the challenges these women face as they try to navigate an often-confusing system during a period of crisis. Women tell us the help they want and need to keep their families afloat, both now and in the future.

Key Points

In most American households, women are the ones who are responsible for healthcare for themselves and their families. From this study, we learned:

  • 46% feel “stressed out and frustrated” by the healthcare system.
  • 43% prioritize their family’s healthcare over their own.
  • Women are responsible for the vast majority of healthcare. decisions in their families and are involved in every aspect of the process.
  • 44% have made sacrifices in order to cover healthcare costs.
  • Financial challenges and the complexity of managing coverage aside, working women struggle with the purely tactical side of accessing healthcare. 60% of moms with children under 18 are also working.

In Conclusion

When it comes to healthcare, women are managing to keep their heads above water, but they could use some help. Being in charge of the household’s healthcare needs is an undeniable challenge for most women, a role made even more difficult by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a role they can’t afford to fail at, which means that they are open to trying solutions they think might be helpful, and they’re likely to stick with any solution that proves to be effective.

The difficulties with navigating the healthcare system have made these decision-makers open to help wherever it may originate, especially in these four areas:

  • Greater transparency around costs and coverage
  • Financial education around healthcare financial tools
  • Financial support for healthcare costs
  • More flexibility from providers and employers

Success in addressing these four needs would be welcomed across the board, but for the most precarious households, solutions aimed at greater flexibility and transparency may not be sufficient. The aftermath of the pandemic is likely to leave even more in need of financial education and assistance.

Head Above Water: Women Navigate Healthcare During a Pandemic and Beyond