Women’s Health Care Costs: Paying More Now and Paying More Later

It has been a one-two punch in the world of news on women’s health care costs.  Recent reports detail (1) how women can expect to pay more than men in the very near future if Trump fulfills his promises regarding repealing Obamacare; and (2) how women must plan on spending much more on healthcare costs once they retire.  So the moral of the story is this — even though you make less, you need to save more, for both the now and the later.

now-and-laterIf only we were writing about this kind of Now and Later…

Women’s Healthcare Costs Now

The gender angle on a repeal of Obamacare doesn’t just concern the fact that most women will see their birth control lose coverage.  That’s a big expense, for certain, and one that doesn’t seem to fit with a “pro-life” agenda that would seek to prevent unwanted pregnancies before they happened.  So stockpile away, ladies; stockpile away.

Unfortunately, there are some costs that can’t be offset by hoarding.  For example, maternity care.  Again, something about which one would think that Republicans would care.  Birthing a baby can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Screening for breast cancer and cervical cancer, much of which must be done routinely to be effective, also racks up costs.   Other kinds of preventative medicine, along with care for victims of domestic violence, are also currently covered under Obamacare; repeal the law, and that coverage disappears.

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies also charged women more than men for the same care.  NPR reported on the following example:

60 percent of best-selling individual plans in 2009 charged a 40-year-old nonsmoking woman more than a 40-year-old man who smoked, even in plans that didn’t include any type of maternity coverage.  That inequity disappeared under the health law, which prohibited insurers from charging women higher rates than men for the same services.

What to do?  First, check out the National Women’s Law Center for information and resources about health care, rights and policy needs.  Then second, start socking away more dollars to cover an increase in healthcare costs that is going to be disproportionately shouldered by us women.

Women’s Health Care Costs Later

The good news is that women tend to live longer.  The bad news is that this means you need to be saving more to cover all of those additional years of healthcare — especially since that healthcare costs more for us ladies.  How much more do you need to save?  According to the Wall Street Journal, an average of at least thirty-five thousand dollars more.  $35,000.  But that’s an “at least” number.  If you read the whole article, you’ll see that the figures could be dramatically higher.

Moreover, this doesn’t cover the costs of long-term care, something that women, in particular, are likely to utilize.  And long-term care is pricey, and rarely covered by Medicare.  Again, as the Wall Street Journal explained today:

A 55-year-old woman is likely to spend $370,000 on some combination of such care at home or in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, the report says. To cover that amount, someone who is currently 55 should set aside about $61,200 today (assuming a 6% return), according to HealthView Services.

So, that’s an additional $60,000 plus that the experts say women should be banking today, just to cover healthcare costs later.  To make things easy for planning, let’s just round up the total and say that each of us needs to bank an extra $100,000 to cover our women’s healthcare costs later.

What To Do?

Once you stop breathing into a paper bag at those wholly unreasonable numbers, what can you do?

First, you do need to seriously budget for this stuff.  Especially because our incoming government is not concerned with these issues and is, if anything, committed to dismantling what government supports there are on the healthcare front.  Don’t believe me?  Just google Tom Price and women’s health.  You’ll find articles like “Trump Health Czar Tom Price is a Nightmare for Women” and videos like this one with Rachel Maddow discussing the issue, complete with a clip from Tom Price dismissing the idea that women might be disproportionately harmed by a repeal of Obamacare (basically dismissing the facts above).

Second, like everything else we’ve been talking about lately, you need to get active.  Make sure your elected representatives at both the state and federal level know that you care about this and are watching what they do.



Posted In: Female Finances

Katherine Kimpel

Kate Kimpel is the Senior Editor of Shattering the Ceiling and is also an accomplished civil rights lawyer. She represents women and people of color in discrimination cases (and other kinds of employment and civil rights matters).  When not lawyering, she likely is bragging about her hound dog Ulysses, inventing cocktails to serve at her next dinner party, or convincing her husband to watch reruns of a Joss Whedon television show (any of them will do). 

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