The costs of being a woman: Why women pay more for their health needs

The (not so) secret costs of being a woman: Health and caregiving

Illustration by Christine Mi

From the careers they pursue to the haircuts they get, women pay a premium compared to men throughout their financial lives. To make matters worse, society’s expectations for women, such as raising kids and caring for older parents, deal a major blow to their relative lifetime earning power. And while many women have broken through stereotypes to change the way we think about gender and money, barriers remain.

This four-part series looks at the costs of womanhood—many of which may surprise you (or make you steam). Share them with young women and girls you know. It’s time to give the next generation the tools and know-how they need to make the most of their money.

From birth control to maternity to eldercare, women bear extra costs to keep themselves healthy. Because of women’s family obligations, the inequality persists despite the protections of the Affordable Care Act.

The Tampon Tax

Health products and most personal care purchases (including drugs like Viagra!) aren’t taxed in most states. But menstrual products are taxed in all but nine states. Tampons are hardly an indulgence, but in terms of taxes, that’s the way they’re treated across the country.

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Health care costs

For years, insurance companies routinely charged women up to 50% more than men for health coverage. The Affordable Care Act outlawed this practice, but women are still penalized in other ways. While men are more likely than women to be uninsured overall, women are more likely to lack insurance—even if they’re employed, largely because so many women must manage family responsibilities and thus only work part-time. Currently, only 29 states require all insurers that cover prescription drugs to include the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices. Plus, after age 65, women spend an average of 7% more on health care than men do, in part because they’re more likely to have a chronic illness and less likely to have a caretaker.

Check out the rest of this four-part series on what it costs women when they earn less, take on debt, or spend money.

affordable Care Act birth control caregiving caretaker drugs eldercare gender gender gap health care health coverage insurance maternity menstrual products mommy penalty parenting penalty Parents personal care secret costs tampons taxes woman women women health

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