Patricia Chaney

Why Health Care Costs More for Women — and How Employers Can Help

Women’s health care doesn’t just differ, in general, from men’s — it’s often more expensive. According to one study, women pay on average 69 percent more for out-of-pocket costs than men.

But why is health care so costly for women, and how can your company support women’s health needs without letting costs spiral out of control?

Primary Drivers of Women’s Health Costs

Women tend to use more health services than men throughout their lives. Part of why female health care is so expensive is immediately apparent: Women’s reproductive health — from pregnancy and childbirth to fertility treatments and birth control — requires them to see doctors and pay for procedures that men don’t require. Those services aren’t cheap.

Additionally, because women live longer than men on average, they’re likely to encounter more costs over the course of their lifetimes and are at higher risk for multiple chronic diseases, according to the Journal of Women’s Health.

The Kaiser Family Foundation‘s (KFF) 2017 Women’s Health Survey found that women consistently go without medical care because of cost — and consistently more often than men do. Among those who report putting off preventive services, declining to fill prescriptions and skipping recommended services, women outnumber men across the board.

How Your Company Can Control Costs

As an employer, being proactive with benefits that support women’s health care is the first step toward making health care affordable for all your employees. Look to bolster your benefits package with some of the following strategies.

  • Promote an employee wellness program. Programs centered on the prevention and management of chronic disease can benefit all employees, but they also target issues that are particularly likely to affect women. Additionally, hosting a program at work can remove some of the barriers that many women who want to try fitness or wellness programs outside of work face, as women who have caregiver or child care responsibilities at home can take the opportunity to participate in the office.
  • Cover prescription drugs. The KFF found that many women face a financial burden because of medical care and prescription costs. Ensuring that your employees have access to some level of prescription drug benefits can help reduce their financial burden and encourage them to stay healthy by not missing doses.
  • Provide benefits for mental health services. Mental Health America found that women experience depression about twice as often as men. Whether through health coverage or an employee assistance program, offering affordable access to mental health services
    can create a healthy treatment strategy for women facing mental health issues.
  • Cover reproductive health needs. Supporting women’s reproductive health through maternity coverage, paid leave and family planning can help ease the burden on your female employees and promote their overall wellness.
  • Encourage savings in flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts. Combined with family planning, these accounts allow employees to save for big expenses like childbirth or fertility treatments. They can also help save for ongoing prescription costs or counseling. If applicable, be sure your employees know these accounts are there for them and how to maximize their benefits.
  • Seek strong physician networks. KFF found that many women were paying for preventive services that should be covered under the Affordable Care Act — including pap tests and mammograms — in part because of a lack of access to in-network providers. Be sure employees understand their coverage and the benefits of finding care within their network.

Having a healthy and productive workforce is a key part of any business’s success, and it’s important to consider how you can help your employees access the benefits that meet their particular needs. Addressing women’s needs will benefit every employee — with the added bonus of supporting the people who need it the most.

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This content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein should not be relied upon or used as a substitute for consultation with legal, accounting, tax and/or other professional advisers.