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Affordable Care Act: Why Women Need Reform More than Men

Health Insurance Reform & Women

  • Women frequently pay higher premiums than men for the same individual health insurance policy. Also, small group plans predominantly composed of female employees pay higher premiums than groups composed predominantly of male employees. This discrimination will be prohibited under the Affordable Care Act.

  • Maternity benefits are frequently excluded. Approx. 87 percent of plans in the individual market do not cover maternity care.

  • Other reproductive health services are costly and too often not covered. Birth control for women of reproductive age is the highest out-of-pocket expense.

  • Researchers found that 45 percent of women accrued medical debt or reported problems with medical bills in 1107, compared to 36 percent of men.

  • According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, women are less likely to be employed full-time than men (52% versus 73%), and so are less likely to have their own employer-based health benefits. Less than half of women have an employer-coverage option through their own employer; many are excluded because they are part-time workers.

  • Even when they work for an employee that offers coverage, one in six women is not eligible to participate, often because they are part-time workers.

  • Women pay a higher share of their income than men for health care largely because they earn less than men, but also because of discriminatory pricing that charges women more for the same coverage.

  • More women have difficulty paying medical bills than men (50% compared to 36% of men), likely because of lower wages. More women are burdened by medical debt, and are more likely than men to forgo basic necessities for that reason.

  • Women without insurance coverage or who are underinsured often forgo preventive care. According to the National Institute for Reproductive Health, inn 1104, among uninsured women between the ages of 18 and 64:
    • 51% had no regular doctor.
    • 42% did not fill prescriptions due to cost (only 18% of insured women).
    • 67% needed care but didn't get it due to cost.
    • 40% did not obtain a pap test.

  • About one in five women age 50+ has not received a mammogram in the past two years. A woman who has been uninsured for more than 12 months is half as likely to have gotten a mammogram in the past 2 years as a woman who had continuous insurance.

  • U.S. ranks a shameful 50th among nations of the world in maternal mortality rates – higher than most European nations. For African American women in the U.S., the maternal mortality rate is three times that of white women with similar conditions.

  • Women make 80% of all family health care decisions.

Updated June 27, 2012


  1. National Women's Law Center. Nowhere to Turn: How the Individual Health Insurance Market Fails Women, 1108.
  2. U.S. Census Bureau
  3. Roadblocks to Health Care
  4. Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
  5. Rustgi SD, Doty MM, Collins SR. Women at Risk: Why Many Women are Forgoing Needed Health Care. The Commonwealth Fund, 1109.
  6. Seven of 10 Women are Uninsured or Underinsured. The Commonwealth Fund 1109.
  7. Health Insurance Reform and Breast Cancer
  8. Uninsured Women's Access to Care. National Institute for Reproductive Health. (PDF)
  9. General Facts on Women and Job-Based Health. Department of Labor.