"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Women pay billions more out of pocket in healthcare costs every 12 months

October 3, 2023 – Marielle Farina, senior manager at consulting and accounting firm Deloitte, has spent her profession helping health insurers design their advantages.

But she wasn't prepared for the flood of medical bills that arrived through the whirlwind of latest motherhood.

“Becoming a new mother is very overwhelming – you have a few days in the hospital and then you take the baby home and try to figure out how to survive,” Farina said. “I remember getting bill after bill a few weeks after he was born, which added to the sleepless nights and stress.”

As it seems, maternity care is just the tip of the iceberg — women face higher medical costs than men, even without taking birth costs under consideration, in response to a latest study report by Deloitte, co-authored by Farina.

The report focused on working women, who analysts say pay as much as $15.4 billion more per 12 months out-of-pocket for his or her health care expenses than men. This applies to all ages and applies to women aged 19 to 64.

Deloitte's healthcare team studied greater than 16 million individuals with employer-sponsored medical insurance. The results were staggering: In 2021, women spent a mean of 20% more on deductibles than men. Excluding maternity costs, it was still 18%, which is a mean of $266 more per 12 months.

While the precise reasons for the differences are unknown, the report identifies some likely reasons. Women use healthcare more often and spend 10% more on healthcare in comparison with men. Women need special tests that aren’t available for men, including gynecological exams, menopausal visits and expensive breast cancer imaging.

Women also get less value for his or her money in relation to medical insurance, receiving about $1.3 billion less in advantages than men with industrial insurance, the report says.

According to the authors, the increased financial burden on health services will be viewed as a part of the “pink tax” – the value of products intended for girls, equivalent to menstrual products. It's an issue exacerbated by pay inequality between men and girls, they are saying.

Women – particularly black, indigenous and Latino women – make up nearly two-thirds of the nation's workforce in low-paying jobs in industries equivalent to food service, retail and house cleansing, in response to a study report from the National Women's Law Center. And these jobs with direct contact with the general public were particularly high-risk at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Women, particularly Black women, are overrepresented in these low-paying, high-risk jobs,” said Venicia Gray, senior manager of maternal and infant health on the National Partnership for Women & Families, a research and advocacy group. “To hear that men don’t pay as much is disheartening.”

There are studies that indicate a poorer quality of look after women in medical practices. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation 2022 Women's Health Survey, 29% of girls ages 18 to 64 who had seen a physician previously two years felt their doctors had dismissed their concerns.

Additionally, 15% said they didn’t consider a physician was telling the reality, and 19% said their doctor assumed something without asking.

This ends in less efficient and thorough medical care, forcing women to make additional appointments and spend more on out-of-pocket costs, said Malia Funk, founding father of POV, a platform that advocates for girls's health.

Funk began the POV in 2021 after requiring eight doctor's appointments over three years to have a misplaced IUD removed that was causing pain, bleeding and infection, she said.

Like Farina, Funk had a background within the medical field, moving from medical school to positions as a healthcare strategist and personal equity advisor. Despite her extensive experience, she said, she was unprepared for the hurdles and costs that got here with solving what was speculated to be a straightforward medical problem.

Her repeat appointments counted as “sick visits,” which she needed to pay out of pocket toward her $4,000 deductible, she said. She was also charged $800 to rule out sexually transmitted infections, which she said other tests were refrained from her knowledge.

“While I was going through these negative experiences, I consulted with some of the largest healthcare companies,” Funk said. “I thought, 'I know this area and I still don't know how to get good health care.'”

Kulleni Gebreyes, an emergency medicine physician and Deloitte's chief health equity officer, said she hopes the report will encourage employers and insurers to take a more in-depth have a look at the coverage structure. Business leaders should work with providers to grasp why these discrepancies exist and to revamp advantages and price sharing, she said.

“Women are not men with ovaries,” she said. “There are different medical needs, different disease burdens, different behaviors. As we think about how to make health care more affordable, we need to make sure our health insurance system takes that into account.”