National Journal: Obamacare May Help Close Gender Wage Gap

Friday, 23 May 2014 02:31 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Obamacare may help close the gender wage gap, since men and women are now charged the same amount for the same healthcare plan.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are no longer allowed to charge women more for the same healthcare plan, as was common practice before Obamacare became law, and this may result in women taking home a greater percentage of their income, National Journal is reporting.

In 2012, women spent an average of $5,246 per year on health care costs, and men spent an average of $4,125, according to a report published by the Health Care Cost Institute.

The institute notes that women tend to spend more on healthcare than men, but the gap increased from 2011, when it was 3.7 percent to 4.2 percent in 2012.

One of the reasons women's costs tend to be higher is because they paid higher insurance premiums, but women also use more medical services than men — they are more likely to go to the doctor when they are sick, they use more services due to pregnancy, and they live longer.

Women are now saving money on their healthcare premiums, but they may also save money if they now have insurance coverage and are no longer paying out of pocket. In addition, large companies are now mandated to offer insurance to their employees, there are now more choices for individuals buying individual insurance policies through the Obamacare exchanges, and women are also allowed to stay on their parents' healthcare plans for longer.

The other upside for women, Amy Allina of the National Women's Health Network told the Journal, is that it no longer needs to be a worry when looking for a job and it also reduces the need to stick with a job just because the employer offers health insurance, allowing women to seek better, higher paying jobs.

According to Heidi Hartmann, economist and president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, women tend to stick with a job because of health benefits more than men.

"Women have higher out of pocket health care costs than men, and anything that improves your disposable income by reducing your costs is likely very valuable," Hartmann told the Journal.

However, Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute said that women may not benefit from Obamacare like some may think because "jobs that don't offer health insurance typically pay less."

"They're aiming at a lower skilled part of the labor market," he explained. "Taking a higher paying job that didn't have health benefits is a non sequitur."

Women who lost individual healthcare plans in the wake of the Obamacare rollout and had to pay more for an Obamacare approved plan also took a financial hit. 

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