Employer-Sponsored Healthcare Coverage More Unstable for Women

December 20, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – One in five of the 96 million U.S. women ages 18 to 64 lacks health insurance coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Employer-sponsored insurance covers 59% of women between the ages of 18 and 64, a Foundation Fact Sheet notes. Women continue to be less likely than men to be insured through their own job (35% vs. 44%, respectively) and more likely to be covered as a dependent (24% vs. 14%).  

Women in families with at least one full-time worker are more likely to have job-based coverage (73%) and less likely to be uninsured (15%) than women in families with only part-time workers (33%) or without any workers (31%).  

Women are more vulnerable to losing their insurance compared to men, as they are more likely to be covered as dependents. This places them at greater risk of losing coverage if they become widowed or divorced, their spouse loses his job, his employer drops family coverage or increases premium and out-of-pocket costs to unaffordable levels.  

In 2011, annual insurance premiums averaged $5,429 for individuals and $15,073 for families, 113% higher than in 2001. Workers have been picking up a greater share of premium costs, and currently pay for an average of 18% of premiums for individual coverage and 28% for family coverage.  

The Fact Sheet also says Medicaid covers 12% of non-elderly women. Typically, only very low-income women who are pregnant, have children living at home or who are disabled can qualify for the program.  

Individually purchased insurance is used by just 6% of women. This type of insurance often provides more limited benefits than job-based coverage and can be costly. Also, pre-existing medical conditions can trigger coverage denials in the individual market, depending on the insurer and state regulations.  

Medicare and other government health insurance covers a small fraction (3%) of women under age 65. For nonelderly women, coverage is limited to women who either have a disability (Medicare) or are covered through the military (TRICARE).  

The Fact Sheet is available at http://www.kff.org/womenshealth/upload/6000-091.pdf.