The (Healthcare) Cost of Being a Woman

Thursday March 23, 2017

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am surely sick of (male) politicians putting their foot in their mouths this past week or so on the topic of women’s healthcare insurance.

Just today, Representative Pat Roberts snarked that “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms.”

Last week, Representative John Shimkus wondered why men should have to pay for prenatal costs. (I’m guessing he meant men paying for prenatal care through insurance payments. But, also…are we also just assuming men don’t pay for the prenatal care of their own children in utero? Like, LADY PROBLEM! I am baffled on many counts.)

We’ve discussed before the actual costs of labor and delivery, mostly because the staggering costs to women who even have insurance boggled my mind. In California, women with insurance pay on average around $15,259 for vaginal births and $21,307 for cesarean births.

But, since looking at the list of Obamacare’s “Essential Benefits” that may be repealed in the next few weeks, I was surprised to learn how many of them only apply to women’s health. Mammograms, prenatal care, birth control. Aka, the lady problems that we foist on ourselves by having expensive lady parts that need lady screenings. (Interestingly, prostate screenings don’t seem to be on the cutting block? Did I read that right?)

SO, what does it cost us simply to be the female half of our species?

Let’s start chronologically in a woman’s lifetime.

(For purposes of standardizing this, I’m only going to consider women with health insurance. American women on average go through menopause at 51, and I will also assume a life expectancy of 78 years. American women on average become sexually active when they are 17, and also average 1.88 births during the course of their lifetimes.)


Pap Tests

Pap Tests are recommended for women every three years, after the age of 21 or when they become sexually active. For women with insurance, the costs range from $0 to $60, depending on whether their insurance includes preventative women’s health coverage.

Over the course of 78 years, a woman will pay between $0 and $1140 for pap smears.


Birth Control

Most of you won’t be surprised to learn that birth control is EXPENSIVE.

For the pill, vaginal ring, or patch, women with insurance pay $35 to $250 for a doctor’s appointment followed by $180 to $960 per year for an supply of birth control. Over the course of her sexually active, reproductive life (51 years minus 17 years), this amounts to an out of pocket expenditure of $$6,120 to $32,640.

For an IUD, a woman with insurance will pay $500 to $1,000 for a doctor’s visit, insertion, and follow up care. IUD’s last 3 years, so over the course of her sexually active, reproductive life, this will be an out of pocket cost of roughly $5,700 to $11,300.

For an Implanon, a woman with insurance pays $400 to $800 for her doctor’s appointment and insertion. She then pays $100 to $300 for removal. This lasts three years, so over the course of her reproductive life, this will be an out of pocket cost of roughly $5,700 to $12,500.

Now, obviously, many woman mix up their birth control options during the course of their lifetimes, sometimes on the pill, sometimes with an IUD. But, it is interesting to see how these costs can add up. Looking at birth control in totality, a woman can be expected to pay out of pocket between $5,700 to $32,640 for birth control, even when she has insurance.



Before, we looked at childbirth costs in California. We would expect those to be more expensive than the national average, and it’s true. Nationally, women with insurance pay on average $9,800 for a vaginal birth and $15,000 for a cesarean birth. Given the 1.88 birth fertility rate in the US, this averages out to a total lifetime expenditure of $18,400 to $28,200 for childbirth.



Women with insurance pay on average $33 for a mammogram screening. It is recommended women over 45 get a yearly mammogram screening, which means that over the course of her life, a woman can expect to pay roughly $858 for mammograms.


Of course, if a woman actually gets cancer or has complications, these numbers shoot way up. But, I think this is a deep enough dive to get a sense of how much we are paying annually and over the course of our lives for simply having female reproductive organs.

Adding it all together, a woman with insurance can expect to pay between $24,950 to $62,800 over the course of her life for basic women’s health checkups and preventative care. Remember: these costs do not take into consideration any actual illnesses. This is just our base, where we’re starting from compared to men.

The cruel irony is also that the working women and single mothers who can least afford it, will likely be the ones shouldering the $62,800 figure because of poor quality health insurance options.

Friends and I were discussing the plight of working women last week. Numbers like these put our frustrations into (surprising?) relief. Yes, girls, you can be whatever you want to be! You can do anything a boy can do! The world is yours! As long as you have between $25,000 and $62,800 in cash to pay for being a woman.

Imagine what we could really become, if we had that money to invest, to put towards a new business, to put towards our education.



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