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Health-Insurance Plans Place Unfair Burden on Women

A recently released Harvard Medical School study finds that high-deductible health-insurance plans offered by employers end up being markedly more expensive and less advantageous for women than for men. Researchers looked at costs in these plans by age group and by gender. In a pool of nearly 33,000 people, the median health-care costs for men ages 18 to 44 with these plans was $463, compared with $1,266 for women of the same age. Among people aged 45 to 64, the median health-care cost for men with these plans was $1,849; for women, $2,871.

A large part of the differential can be ascribed to the fact that women typically need many more routine exams, tests, and services (mammograms, cervical-cancer vaccines, Pap tests, birth-control and pregnancy related assistance, to name a few) than do men. Dr. Steffie Woodlander, the study’s lead author, nicely summed up its findings: “High deductible [health-insurance] plans punish women for having breasts and uteruses and having babies.” For more on the Harvard Health Insurance Study, see Working Health Remedies.