Employed women's out-of-pocket health costs $15.4B higher than men's

Although employed men and women tend to purchase the same health insurance plans, they do not receive the same coverage, according to a Sept. 26 analysis from Deloitte. 

The firm analyzed health insurance data from the Komodo Healthcare Map, a set encompassing enrollment history and healthcare claims for pharmacy and medical benefits from all settings of care, sourced from payers nationwide between 2017 and 2022. 

Analysts found that employed women have as much as $15.4 billion more in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses per year than men; for people with commercial insurance, the value of benefits for women is more than $1.3 billion less than men. 

This gap persisted at all ages between 19 through 64 and cannot be chalked up to maternity claims, according to Deloitte. Women consistently paid 20 percent more than men in out-of-pocket expenditures, and removing relevant maternity claims led to only 2 percent less spending. 

There are several other reasons why women's out-of-pocket medical expenses are higher than men's, the analysis said. Women are prone to earlier-age recommendations for annual checkups, greater frequencies of gynecological exams and the effects of menopause. The cost of breast cancer imaging is also relatively high compared to other types of cancer. 

Covering the gap would cost employers less than $12 per employee per year, or less than $1 per month, according to the report.

"Our analysis highlights a hidden financial burden on women that can not only impact their pocketbook but potentially their health," Kulleni Gebreyes, MD, Deloitte Consulting's U.S. chief health equity officer and life sciences and healthcare sector leader, said in the report.

"Financial stressors can lead to health problems and delays in care which can further perpetuate a cycle of preventable healthcare consumption thus compounding expense. As leaders in business, healthcare and society, we have an opportunity to make intentional efforts to close this gap."

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