For women, especially, insurance equals savings

Young Woman

Free preventive care and birth control coverage add up to big savings for women.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, pregnancy could be treated as a preexisting condition and insurance could be denied. Insurance providers routinely “gender rated” plans, which resulted in higher-priced premiums for female customers. In a 2008 study, the National Women’s Law Center found that just 12 percent of some 3,500 insurance plans provided comprehensive maternity coverage.

Perhaps because they know what’s good for them, nationally women have been enrolling in health exchanges such as Washington’s Healthplanfinder at higher rates (55 to 45 percent) than men.

Under the new legislation, women cannot be charged more for insurance than men. All health plans must offer comprehensive maternity care and cover contraception, along with at least one free annual checkup.

According to some number crunching by NerdWallet, these new stipulations make purchasing insurance cheaper for women than paying out of pocket for routine and recommended medical expenses.

For this comparison NerdWallet added up some of the the basic, free health services provided through the Affordable Care Act:

  • one year of oral birth control
  • one in-clinic visit
  • one pap smear
  • one HIV test
  • one blood draw

Comparing the average of these medical costs with how much a 27-year-old woman would pay for a Bronze plan, they found she could save over $100 annually — by buying insurance. (The out-of-pocket expenses totaled $1,231, while typical Bronze plan monthly premiums added up to $1,116. In King County, the lowest priced Bronze plan for a 27-year-old woman making $25,000 totals $1,058 annually.)

Since any additional, unforeseen medical issues would add a lot more expense for anyone uninsured, enrolling in a health insurance plan (at Washington Healthplanfinder) clearly makes dollars and sense.

Update, Mar. 25. 2014 — The US Supreme Court is considering a legal challenge against the mandate that all health plans include contraception, without charging co-pays. But that challenge focuses on whether private businesses have a right to opt-out of providing contraception benefits to their employees, not about whether plans in the health exchanges should include it.

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