Closing the cost gap: Strategies to advance women’s health equity

Rethinking benefit coverage and affordability

Out-of-pocket health care costs for employed women in the United States are estimated to be $15 billion higher per year than for employed men, exacerbating gender wage disparities. And this financial burden on women persists even when excluding maternity-related services. How can businesses and health insurers help close the cost gap and address gender bias in health care?

Being female shouldn’t have hidden costs

Our analysis reveals that women across all age groups from 19 to 64 experience disproportionately higher out-of-pocket medical expenses compared to men, even when excluding pregnancy-related services. On average, female employees under single coverage incur approximately $266 more in annual out-of-pocket costs than their male counterparts, constituting over an 18% increase, excluding pregnancy-related expenses. This gender-based financial challenge highlights the need for businesses to scrutinize benefit coverage to make health care more affordable for female employees.

Deloitte’s health actuarial team has delved into the average benefit design’s consequences on women’s financial outlays when accessing health care services. Our findings suggest that health insurance products may inadvertently create an income gap for working women, compounding the effects of the well-documented gender wage disparity, where women earn approximately $0.82 for every dollar earned by men. For Black and Latinx women, this income gap is even wider at $0.70 and $0.65, respectively, compared to White men. This dual burden of elevated health care expenditures and the gender wage gap may force employed women into difficult choices between necessary care and affordability.

Looking for a deeper dive into gender bias in health care costs and how your business can advance women’s health equity? Download our full report for the details and data of our analysis.

Hiding in plain sight: The health care gender toll

What could be the solution?

As gender-based financial disparities become increasingly evident, it’s important for health insurers and employers to reevaluate and redesign benefit coverage. This proactive approach can not only alleviate the financial strain on women but also foster equity within organizations, ultimately contributing to optimal health and well-being for all genders. Just as the “pink tax” highlights price discrepancies in consumer products, the health care sector and employers should address these inequities to help ensure a fair and accessible health care system for everyone.

Through our analysis, we were able to identify key data points important to the health benefits gap story. Explore a visual breakdown of them in this infographic, also included in our download of the report.

Making better health and well-being more accessible to all

There may be a strong link between income and health and well-being. Our analysis highlights a challenge and opportunity for US women who are facing disproportionate out-of-pocket health care costs in comparison to men. Health care and business leaders have a real opportunity to create meaningful change for their workforce. Based on the data on medical costs for women, we recommend an intentional review of benefit design coverage with focused analysis of impact on men, women, and individuals of any gender.

If you’d like to talk about any of the insights on this page, or how your company can help advance health equity, let’s set up a conversation.

Get in touch

Kulleni Gebreyes, MD, MBA
Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP
US Chief Health Equity Officer
+1 980 701 3306

Andy Davis, FSA, MAAA
Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP
Financials & Future of Health
+1 612 397 4174



Thuong Broaden, ASA, MAAA, FCA
Specialist Leader | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Stefani (Klapperich) Smilanich, ASA
Senior Consultant | Deloitte Consulting LLP 

Marielle Farina, FSA, MAAA
Senior Manager | Deloitte Consulting LLP


Fullwidth SCC. Do not delete! This box/component contains JavaScript that is needed on this page. This message will not be visible when page is activated.

Did you find this useful?