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How supplemental insurance supports women’s health

Supplemental insurance coverage can help everyone, even those who have high-quality health insurance plans. But its advantages may particularly speak to women. Not because of some innate feminine quality women possess, or because it offers women additional benefits beyond what it offers men. Rather, it’s well-suited for women because of long-lasting inequities in health care, in personal finance and in society overall.

You can help your clients support their female workers by showing them how supplemental coverage can connect the dots for the first two factors – health and financial disparities.

Gender disparities in health care

Women live longer than men, on average.1 That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re getting the health care they need. When women who have heart attacks first visit the doctor with symptoms of heart disease, they’re less likely to be told that their symptoms may be heart-related.2 Women are less likely to receive proper emergency care,3 less likely to receive CPR from a bystander,4 more likely to be misdiagnosed5 and more likely to be told that their health concerns are psychosomatic.6

And that’s just for women who are able to see their health care practitioners. In 2019, 15% of all U.S. adult women had not seen a doctor in the past 12 months because of cost.7 That number is higher for most women of color; 23% of Latinas had avoided care because of cost, compared with 12% of white women. So it’s not surprising that women of color are likelier to say their health is fair or poor compared with white women.8

Covering the costs for people who seek preventive care won’t solve gender or racial inequities in health care. But it can help women get the care they need. Aflac’s Health Screening Benefit pays a benefit for certain preventive care, including annual physical exams. Such wellness benefits can help women who might normally skip these types of exams ensure they keep check on their health.

Mental health issues take a disproportionate toll on women

We may be past the point at which doctors diagnosed women with “hysteria” and believed that women’s mental health problems were “female issues,”9 but mental health disparities between the sexes are still omnipresent. Women are likelier than men to experience depression,10 anxiety disorders11 and eating disorders.12 They’re also likelier to have more poor mental health days than men: In a 2019 study, women self-reported an average of 4.9 poor mental health days in the past 30 days,13 while men averaged 3.7.14

Statistically speaking, some of those women have a mental health condition. But others may simply be struggling with the disproportionate burdens women bear. Women do more household chores,15 and provide more child care16 and caregiving for older adults.17 This cuts into their ability to engage in the kind of self-care that might reduce their poor mental health days – women have less leisure time than men.18 And all of that was before Covid-19 hit, placing more women than men in a position to have to choose between work and child care.19 Not that all women are able to choose: Women are likelier to be single parents, placing the burden of family coverage squarely on their shoulders.20

Many employers and employees alike are seeing value-added services as a means to support mental health, stress relief and just overall wellness. Aflac makes several value-added services that support employees’ health and well-being available as a part of its supplemental coverage offerings.

The wage gap matters – but supplemental coverage can help

All of this plays a role in another disparity: financial inequality. In 2018, women earned, on average, 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. That gap widens for Black, Latina and indigenous women.21 This translates to a wealth gap, even among young professionals – young men have more than double the net worth of their female peers.22 The financial literacy gap doesn’t help; in one study, 89% of women who took a 38-question quiz on personal finance failed, compared with 72% of men.23

All that has an effect on women’s ability to pay for the health care they, or sometimes, their family members, need. Aflac coverages help with expenses their health insurance doesn’t cover. As 66% of bankruptcies are caused by medical issues,24 that alone makes a strong case for women purchasing supplemental coverage. And within the study on financial literacy, there’s a bright spot for women, and for brokers, too: Women overall scored better than men on questions about health care finances and long-term care. They understand the financial toll of these concerns – and that could translate to them understanding how supplemental insurance can help them.