By Randy Tucker
Dayton Daily News, Ohio.
Since the early days of the Affordable Care Act, insurers and others have worried that a disproportionate number of older, sicker Americans enrolling in the health insurance marketplaces would push up premiums for everyone to cover higher-than-expected medical costs.
Now that Americans are signing up for coverage, another cost threat has emerged: too many women.
Women comprised 55 percent of the 3.3 million Americans who signed up for coverage in state and federal marketplaces through Feb. 1, according to government figures released last week.
In Ohio, 56 percent of the 60,000 residents who enrolled in private health plans through the state marketplace were women.
Most female enrollees selected higher-value health plans that require insurers to cover a greater share of their medical costs after their deductibles are met. At least 66 percent of women in the marketplaces have selected “silver” plans, which require insurers to cover at least 70 percent of medical costs.
And women tend to use significantly more services and spend more health care dollars than men, said Kevin Coleman, head of research and data at HealthPocket.com, a health insurance cost-comparison website.
“In almost every age bracket, women have higher medical use, on average, than men. So, all things being equal, if you have significantly greater representation by women, then, yes, you could have higher health care costs and higher premiums in the marketplaces,” Coleman said.
An analysis of the government’s 2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey — which tracks health care costs among more than 50,000 U.S. adults — found that median annual health care spending among non-elderly adult women was $1,844, or more than double the figure for men, $847.
The biggest cost driver for women was maternity care, which accounted for 16 percent of overall health plan costs in the annual survey conducted by the U. S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.