The Ovary Penalty – it’s all smoke and mirrors.

How do women really compare to men when it comes to health care expense?

In the current debate about healthcare, it is often used as an argument against the new health care laws  that men will now see their premiums go up because they will have to pay for the health care provided to women as well.  Men and women are both asking, “Why should men have to foot the bill for coverage that includes prenatal care, and pregnancy?  Shouldn’t it be limited to people with ovaries?”  Followed by the logic, “Of course women are more expensive to insure, they have more parts.”

It’s sad that some women don’t delve a little deeper into this argument and realize that it is all put out there as a talking point to help pick away at the current healthcare laws.  We are so quick to grab onto what seems practical.  Women are the one’s who bear the children, so shouldn’t we bear the cost of the expense?  Well, I am not going to give you the easy argument that it takes two to tango so men should also help cover that costs of pregnancy and all of the parts that are involved.

What I will tell you is this:

A study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found the following:

 2010 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports:

  • In 2007, females had a lower rate of postoperative respiratory failure than males (9.0% compared with 14.8%).
  • From 2004 to 2007, a significant decrease was seen among males and females in the inpatient pneumonia mortality rate. In 2007, females had a significantly better inpatient pneumonia mortality rate than males.
  • In 2007. females had a significantly lower rate of postoperative sepsis than males (14.1 per 1,000 hospital discharges compared with 17.7).
  • In 2007, females had significantly lower rate of deaths following complications of care than males (99.8 per 1,000 discharges compared with 112.1).
  • Females were more likely to have a usual primary care provider than males (79.9% compared with 72.6%).

On the other hand…

  • In 2007, the percentage of female patients who received potentially inappropriate medications was significantly higher than for male patients (18.1% compared with 11.8%).
  • From 2002 to 2007, females were less likely to be uninsured all year than males (in 2007, 13.0% compared with 17.4%).
  • In all years between 2002 and 2007, females were more likely than males to be unable to get or delayed in getting needed medical care, dental care, or prescription medicines.

Yes, women live longer then men and therefore incur more costs.  But that also means that we pay more into the  healthcare system.  And if we are going to start breaking down all of the body parts that justify the disparity, I would like to point out that the American Cancer Society documents that:

“A woman’s risk of getting invasive ovarian cancer in her lifetime is about 1 in 72. Her lifetime chance of dying from invasive ovarian cancer is about 1 in 100.”  Whereas, “1 man in 6 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.  And about 1 man in 36 will die of prostate cancer.”

Argue all you want about healthcare, but stop falling into the political spin about healthcare costs.  Just because it appears to make sense on the surface, doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

Additional Data:

Current as of March 2011

Internet Citation: Healthcare Quality and Disparities in Women: Selected Findings From the 2010 National Healthcare Quality and Dispar. March 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.