While women and men tend to buy the same health insurance products, Deloitte health actuaries found the coverage they receive is generally not the same. To understand potential financial discrepancies of health benefits, Deloitte’s health actuarial team examined more than 16 million people under employer-sponsored coverage to understand the impact of benefit design on out-of-pocket financial costs for women compared to men. The report, “Hiding in plain sight — the health care gender toll,” revealed that based on current benefit coverage, women’s out-of-pocket costs are disproportionately higher than men’s for every age from 19 to 64, even when excluding pregnancy-related services. The report recommends health insurers and employers examine and redesign benefit coverage to reduce the financial gap experienced by women and help drive health equity and optimal health and well-being for all people.
Deloitte’s analysis validated that men and women generally consume health care differently. Overall, women seek more health care and more treatment than men, and this utilization difference holds true even when excluding maternity claims. The analysis found that while women experience 10% more in total health expenditures relative to men, it did not explain why out-of-pocket expenditures for women are 18% higher than men. The analysis found:
Several factors were found to contribute to the difference in health care utilization patterns, including early-age recommendations for annual check-ups, greater frequency of gynecological examinations, the relatively high cost of breast cancer imaging compared to other cancer types, and the effects of menopausal transitions, among various others.
“Our analysis highlights a hidden financial burden on women that can not only impact their pocketbook but potentially their health. Financial stressors can lead to health problems and delays in care which can further perpetuate a cycle of preventable health care consumption thus compounding expense. As leaders in business, health care, and society, we have an opportunity to make intentional efforts to close this gap.”