Women Face Higher Costs for Health Deductible Plans
Women are more likely to pay more than men enrolled in high-deductible health plans -- which have low premiums and in some cases include health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements -- in large part because women require medical services that men do not require, according to a study published in the April issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports.
For the study, Harvard Medical School researchers led by Steffie Woolhandler examined data from the 2003 federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which included responses from almost 33,000 U.S. residents. Based on 2006 dollars, the study found that the median cost for men younger than age 45 enrolled in high-deductible health plans was less than $500, compared with more than $1,200 for women.
The study also found that one-third of men younger than age 45 with health insurance had more than $1,050 in annual medical costs, compared with 55% of women.
Women on average have more health care costs because they require medical services -- such as mammograms, cervical cancer vaccines, Pap tests, birth control and services related to pregnancy -- that men do not require, Woolhandler said. She said, "High-deductible plans punish women for having breasts and uteruses and having babies," adding, "When an employer switches all his employees into a consumer-driven health plan, it's the same as giving all the women a $1,000 pay cut, on average, because women on average have $1,000 more in health costs than men."
However, some health benefits consultants said that the study improperly assumes that all high-deductible health plans are the same. Many high-deductible health plans do not require employees to pay for vaccinations and other preventive medical services and cover some level of initial costs, they said (Stobbe, AP/Houston Chronicle, 4/5).