Sep 26, 2023 - Health

Women pay billions more out of pocket for health care: analysis

Average out-of-pocket medical spend, by age
Reproduced from Deloitte; Chart: Axios Visuals

At every age, women have higher out-of-pocket expenses for their health care than men despite having similar health insurance, according to a new Deloitte report.

Why it matters: Much has been made about a so-called "pink tax" when it comes to higher costs for women's consumer products. The new analysis argues there's a similar burden when it comes to women's health coverage.

By the numbers: Even when removing maternity care from the equation, women each year are paying $15.4 billion more out of pocket for health care, according to Deloitte's actuarial analysis of more than 16 million people who have employer-sponsored coverage.

  • The difference in actuarial value of employer-sponsored plans — which measures expected costs the health insurance plan picks up — was estimated to be about $1.3 billion less for women compared to men.

Between the lines: Women use health care more often, with 10% more in total health expenditures relative to men. But they still saw out-of-pocket expenditures that were 18% higher after removing maternity costs, the authors wrote.

  • The authors said this may be partly explained by the different kinds of care recommended for women, such as earlier annual checkups and gynecological examinations.
  • They also cited the relatively high cost of breast cancer imaging compared to screening for other cancer types, and costs associated with the effects of menopausal transitions.
  • The authors recommend an examination of benefit design with an analysis of how it impacts different genders.
  • They also recommend employers consider increased spending — an estimated $133 per enrolled employee annually — to create financial equity in their health care benefit.
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