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How Women Need to Think About Health Insurance Differently






There are some things women are better at than men. Taking care of their health isn’t one of them. According to a recent study from ZocDoc, a digital health marketplace, when they’re sick, two-thirds of women would rather wait it out than make a doctor’s appointment right away (only half of men say the same). More troublingly, women are more likely than men to put off preventative care.

Money is likely a large factor behind the inclination of women to put off care — or skip it altogether.

That’s why women should be thinking differently about their health insurance. And if you’re one of the 40 percent of women who are the primary subscriber to a health insurance policy that also covers your spouse and/or children, this is even more important. Here’s what you need to know.

○  Insurance Hasn’t Changed… Yet

Women have unique health concerns that need to be accounted for when choosing a health insurance plan. And the coming changes to the Affordable Care Act and other healthcare laws could present new complications for women seeking coverage.

But for now, Obamacare still exists — and that means if you have insurance, your scheduled preventative care is covered, says Nate Purpura of ehealth.com. That includes: Annual well-woman visits, HPV immunizations (which, by the way, young men should receive as well), and mammograms every two years over the age of 40. “Many people aren’t taking advantage of this,” Purpura notes.

  “It goes against the idea of let’s catch it early and treat it.” Maternity care is also covered. So is 95 percent to 100 percent of the cost of contraception.

As it stands now, the penalty for being a woman is also gone. Prior to the passage of the ACA, if you were shopping for health insurance on your own (as opposed to getting it through an employer), it cost more if you were a woman.

How much? An average of $34 a month, or $400 a year, according to eHealth. That’s not true anymore. On the downside, “there’s not a lot of flexibility when choosing your benefits,” Purpura says. On the up, “everything is covered and an insurance plan is not going to [cost more] if you’re a woman.”

○  Get Specific About Doctors and Prescriptions

There’s a general belief that women are more loyal than men are. But research by Erasmus University’s Stijn van Osselaer found that’s not necessarily the case. Men are more loyal to organizations, but women are more likely to value individual relationships. As such, we’re loyal to our hairdressers, our favorite salespeople and, yes, our doctors.

So if you feel a loyalty to your doctors — or even if you’re just particularly comfortable with them — then make sure they accept the insurance plan you choose during open enrollment time. If you think this is the year you might get pregnant, make particularly sure that the OB/GYN you want to use is on your plan. After all, if paying less for a plan means your favorite doctor isn’t covered, and you wind up visiting the doctor less as a result, then it’s worth paying a little extra to get insurance you’ll actually use more.

And while you’re at it, make sure any prescriptions you take are covered, as well. 

○  Your Health Concerns Are Different — and Should Drive Your Insurance Decision 

Let’s put maternity benefits aside for the moment (because, as we noted, they’re always covered) and focus on three other health concerns that women should be aware of.

•  Heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death for women in the United States, responsible for about one-in-four deaths in females annually.
•  Cancer, the second most dangerous threat to a woman’s health. Contrary to popular belief, breast cancer isn’t the most deadly culprit here — that dubious honor goes to lung cancer, which is responsible for roughly 71,000 deaths annually.
•  Stroke, which causes 6 percent of all female deaths, but is also the leading cause of long-term disability; 60 percent of all strokes happen in women.

“If you’re in the risk group for any of these illnesses, you may want to consider a low-deductible plan,” says Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO of insurance marketplace site PolicyGenius.com. You’ll pay more upfront for your policy, but if you have an incident, more of your overall costs will be covered.

○  Get Your Physicals Now

InsuranceQuotes.com recently released a report looking at women’s healthcare risks specifically under President Trump. “We do think preventative care is going to continue,” says Laura Adams, Senior Insurance Analyst for the site. “[However,] what has been unique about Obamacare is that they have included a lot of women’s services as preventative care — for example, birth control.” Preventative care of this type, she says, could go away under whatever replaces Obamacare.

That argues for taking advantage of benefits that are on your current policy, pronto. “Get your annual visits done,” Adams suggests. “By this time next year, this type of coverage might not be as rich for women.”