High-Deductible Plans Spell Higher Costs for Women
Although "little research" has been conducted on the effects of high-deductible health plans on women, "several studies point to potentially higher costs, ... especially where maternity care is concerned," Dow Jones reports.
Under high-deductible plans, an individual is responsible for at least the first $1,100 of out-of-pocket medical costs, and out-of-pocket costs for family plans start at $2,200, "though deductibles often run much higher," according to Dow Jones.
An April Harvard Medical School study on high-deductible plans found that in 2006, health costs for working-age women averaged about $1,844, compared with $847 for men. Among people ages 18 to 44, women's median outlays were about $1,266 for high-deductible plans, compared with $463 for men.
Judy Waxman, vice president for health at the National Women's Law Center, said that women often do not fare well under high-deductible plans because they have to use medical services more often than men and are more likely to forgo needed medical care if they have to pay for treatment out-of-pocket.
Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families, said that high-deductible health plans could be "worrisome" for women, who often are primary caregivers, earn less money and might be in more precarious financial situations if single or divorced. Zuckerman said, "A lot of times, the people who can least afford the risk are the ones getting these policies hoping they stay well, and when they don't, obviously, it's better than nothing, but it can be a huge financial burden on people who just don't have any excess money to spend."
Zuckerman added, "For a lot of people, it's not a lot better than nothing because a $5,000 deductible means they can't live in their house anymore" (Gerencher, Dow Jones, 7/5).