The differences between men’s and women’s health care needs can lead to some uncertainty when choosing health insurance options for your employees. But it’s crucial to make sure your plan covers the full range of needs your female employees may have — not just for their sake, but for your business’s, too.
As Carol Rowland Hogue of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University notes, “Women are the primary caregivers for both children and the elderly, and women comprise almost half of the U.S. employed workforce. When women suffer, families and businesses suffer.”
Here’s what you need to know to support your female employees’ health and empower them to succeed at work and a home.
Common Women’s Health Care Needs
Some key women’s health insurance needs revolve around reproductive health. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a contraception coverage mandate, for example. For pregnancy-related care, women need access to wellness and nutrition services before pregnancy to ensure a healthy childbirth experience. Pregnancy services include appointments related to family planning, fertility options and time off after childbirth to recover and bond with new babies.
That said, reproductive issues aren’t the only ones a comprehensive plan should cover. Consider that up to 75 percent of caregivers are women, according to the American College of Physicians, and women spend 50 percent more time providing care than men do. Women care for children, spouses and aging parents. Add the demands of full-time work, and it can be challenging for your female employees to take care of themselves.
Along with leaving women less time to take preventive measures to manage their health, caregiving duties can cause stress, leading in turn to a range of chronic and mental health issues, from anxiety to weakened immune systems to obesity.
According to the ACP, women are slightly more likely than men to have one or more chronic condition, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. And women have higher rates of depression than men, with caregivers showing even higher rates of poor mental health than those who are not caregivers.
How Employers Can Support Women’s Health
Offering insurance and health care options that support women’s health — not only for your female employees but also for the covered female spouses of your staff — can improve the overall health and productivity of your workforce.
Here are a few steps to take to ensure that you’re giving (and receiving) this benefit:
- Make sure contraception is covered. This is a big one for women. Birth control isn’t just used for family planning — women take it to manage health conditions as well. An ACP position paper estimates that about 14 percent of women use short-acting hormonal birth control for reasons other than preventing pregnancy.
- Provide adequate maternity benefits. Not all insurance plans offer the same level of maternity coverage. Look for insurance that covers all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. More women are choosing to work first and have children later, reports the New York Times, so consider plans that assist with fertility treatment costs, too.
- Offer paid maternity leave. More and more employers are offering paid parental leave to mothers and fathers, and a few states have implemented laws allowing parents to take a certain number of weeks off with pay to care for a new baby. Research so far shows that paid leave policies improve retention, productivity and employee morale and haven’t negatively affected costs. If you aren’t able to offer paid leave, consider offering short-term disability to employees to allow them to avoid having to take unpaid leave.
- Cover and promote mental health services. Ensure that your insurance plan covers mental health care and substance abuse services. You can also promote positive mental health in the workplace by finding ways to decrease the stress of caregiving, for example by offering flexible schedules.
- Promote dependent savings accounts. Caring for family members and children gets expensive. Be sure your employees are aware of any pretax savings they can use to help cover those costs.
- Encourage wellness and preventive care. Under the ACA, wellness visits and disease screenings are covered. Encourage health and wellness in the workplace, and allow employees to take free time for doctor visits to manage chronic conditions.
Being thoughtful about your how your insurance benefits promote health care for women can have a range of positive impacts on your female employees’ well-being, while also making your business more productive and attractive to job seekers. Make sure your employees understand the benefits they already have and ask them what they need for the best health possible.
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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.