Gender Inequality

US women are paying billions more for healthcare than men every year

Women visit healthcare professionals more often than men and the services they receive more often surpass the deductibles.

Women visit healthcare professionals more often than men and the services they receive more often surpass the deductibles. Image: Unsplash/Volodymyr Hryshchenko

Charlotte Edmond
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Gender Inequality

  • The average working woman in the US spends 18% more on healthcare costs than a man.
  • Women visit healthcare professionals more often than men and the services they receive more often surpass the deductibles.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report shows that progress on gender parity has stalled, but health and survival is one of the smallest gaps remaining.

Working women in the States are estimated to pay $15 billion more each year on healthcare costs than working men. This gender-divided financial burden persists even when maternity-related services are excluded, according to new research by Deloitte.

This works out as an average employed woman on single coverage having approximately $266 – or 18% – more out-of-pocket spending on healthcare per year than a man, excluding pregnancy-related expenses.

Employers in the US are required to provide healthcare insurance premiums at an equal cost to women and men. But this does not reflect the actual cost as premiums are only part of the financial story, Deloitte says – further exacerbating the gender pay gap.

Across all age groups, women consistently pay more than men for healthcare costs not covered under their insurance.
Across all age groups, women consistently pay more than men for healthcare costs not covered under their insurance. Image: Deloitte
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A disproportionate cost to women

Deloitte’s findings are based on a sample of more than 16 million people in the US with employer-sponsored healthcare.

The analysis shows that men are far more likely to wait more than two years between visits to see a healthcare professional. And when they do visit, they are likely to have fewer services than women – 46% of men have less than $1,000 in claims annually compared to just 35% of women. The medical services women access generally surpass the typical deductible, resulting in higher costs.

On top of this, analysis suggests that the actuarial value of the coverage offered to women – the percentage of average costs that a plan will cover – was less than to men. Or put otherwise, women consistently get less value from their insurance premiums than men do.

Out-of-pocket healthcare costs are estimated to be billions of dollars more per year for employed women.
Out-of-pocket healthcare costs are estimated to be billions of dollars more per year for employed women. Image: Deloitte

Closing the gender gap

“[The] combination of higher health care expenditures and the gender wage gap can negatively impact the financial and health status for employed women, potentially creating a choice between the care women need and the care they can afford,” the report says.

This theme is reflected in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023, which finds that efforts to close the gender gap are stalling and will take an additional 131 years to reach parity. The gap explicitly relating to health and survival is 96% closed.

Graphs illustrating the percentage of the gender gap closed to date, 2023
The health and survival index is the most closed of all the gender gaps. Image: World Economic Forum

The Forum’s Global Health and Healthcare Strategic Outlook sets out a vision for 2035 on how healthcare systems can be transformed to become more resilient, sustainable and equitable.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Gender InequalityHealth and HealthcareGlobal Health
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