Health Insurance Women's Health

Health Secretary Sebelius Discusses Insurance Inequities for Women

Guest post by Sara Mackey of

In remarks made at the University of Wisconsin on April 10, 2012, Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services said women are typically the most disadvantaged of all health insurance consumers. Women are more likely to be underinsured, or to have no coverage whatsoever, and, if insured, to pay more for coverage equal to that men receive.

Women Pay More for Health Insurance and Get Less

According to Sebelius, women pay, on average 15 to 40 percent more for their health insurance policies than their male counterparts. However, these policies do not typically include benefits for the services women need, therefore their out-of-pocket expenses are also higher, particularly for maternity care.

“Being a woman, right now, is a pre-existing condition in the health insurance market, and that would come to an end [with full health care reform],” Sebelius said. “Certainly when issues like anything from C-sections to domestic violence are used as pre-existing condition limitations and insurance companies can charge for that or lock women out [inequities exist.]”

Health Insurance Statistics for Women

Approximately 59 percent of women ages 18 to 64 have health insurance as a job benefit, but they are less likely to hold that coverage as a consequence of their own employment. Only about 35 percent of insured women have their own job-based coverage, with the remainder listed as dependents on their spouse’s coverage. This makes marital status a key component in insurance access for women.

Only 6 percent of women have individually purchased insurance online, which is typically more expensive, and more subject to exclusion for pre-existing conditions and coverage denials. Approximately 12 percent of women in the 18 to 64 year age bracket receive benefits from Medicaid, and 3 percent from Medicare. Twenty percent of non-elderly women have no health insurance whatsoever and cannot afford to seek coverage.

Younger, low-income women of color are at the highest risk for going uninsured, but 57 percent of those with no insurance are from families with one full-time working adult. Regional variations can be extreme. Fewer than 5 percent of women in Massachusetts lack insurance, while the number climbs to 30 percent in Texas.

Fate of Health Care Reform of Key Importance to Women

Currently the individual mandate clause of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is before the U.S. Supreme Court for review. If it is judged unconstitutional, large portions of the overall health reform effort would likely collapse.

During the discussion, many women told Sebelius they have already benefited from the reforms currently in place as a consequence of the Affordable Care Act, including the provision that allows children to remain on their parents’ health policies up to age 26 regardless of educational or marital status. This provision has helped fill important insurance gaps for single women with no job benefits.

4 comments on “Health Secretary Sebelius Discusses Insurance Inequities for Women

  1. lkafle

    Reblogged this on lava kafle kathmandu nepal.

  2. Pingback: Report: Companies likely to save billions dumping employee health care | Congressman Tom Tancredo

  3. As an owner of a health insurance agency, I find Sebelius’ statistic about only 6% of individual policyholders being women who purchased insurance online to be misleading. Perhaps they don’t all buy online – maybe they are mainly working through an insurance agent to submit paper applications. We have scores of female policyholders. My advice to women would be to contact Sara Mackey and get some help applying for insurance if you are a woman. There’s plenty of help available, and women are certainly capable of making their own healthcare decisions.

  4. I can see why they’d charge woman more for health insurance, but I really don’t agree with that. Were all humans, and we all get sick, therefore we all should have affordable AND reliable health insurance.

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