Oh the beauty of being a woman! That is, of course, unless you are looking for healthcare in the United States, in which case, your gender could be considered a pre-existing condition. Luckily, since 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulated that “Gender, race, disability, age, and place of birth should not affect the cost and quality of care a person receives from any provider receiving federal funding.” But if you have been following the news lately, you know that the ACA is a heated political issue.
According to Healthline, “Before the ACA, women buying insurance on the individual market were routinely charged up to 50 percent more for monthly premiums than men. In some cases the gap was as high as 81 percent.” So let’s be real. Things seem pretty bleak in the healthcare department for women in the United States. But how do we stack up against other countries?
We took a look at the world’s leading economies, according to a study by the World Economic Forum in 2017, to compare women’s healthcare options across the globe. And as with most things in life, our first concern is cost. So before we get into some pros and cons, here is a look from 2016 by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation on healthcare costs regardless of gender.
Not ideal, but if we’re spending more for better service, than that would be just fine, right? Well, let’s find out.
First off, Japan offers universal health coverage for its entire population. They are often ranked first in the world for women’s life expectancy at birth and they offer one of the longest paid maternity leave policies in the world. But, the low healthcare costs might not be sustainable due to their aging population. Also, medical abuse by citizens leads to the rationing doctors and resources.
Germany is known for its high standards in healthcare and prenatal care. They offer first-class facilities, staff, and extensive options for reproductive care as well as comprehensive coverage for maternity leave. On the other hand, abortions are still a very controversial topic and the discrepancy between the privately insured and general insurance has grown over the years creating a de facto two-class system.
The UK believes that access to healthcare is a human right and should be equal, no matter the gender. This means that the entire population is insured – but with that comes long wait times in both general care and emergency room situations. This also means there is tight control over medical expenses which results in a lack of resources. And, patients have little control over what provider they use, and what specialists they can see.
The United States is still one of the biggest global donors to women’s health. Currently, with insurance, contraceptives are available at no cost to the patient and luckily, the US has some of the highest rates of breast cancer awareness in the world. However, the system currently leaves gaps because not all procedures and services are covered, and those can be quite expensive. The US also has little to no paid maternity leave and is left up to employers. This is something that has come under scrutiny time and time again.
The new healthcare reform in China is centered around prevention, and they focus on connected-care and health-centric technologies. But, the public health insurance generally covers about half of medical costs. China also still has a stigma against maternity leave and reproductive health awareness, and there is wage discrimination against women which can reduce access to healthcare.
It’s clear that there are systematic flaws in addressing women’s healthcare in all leading economies. However, there are also many clear ways that the US can learn from other countries. Why wouldn’t we focus on prevention like China? Or have fair paid maternity leave like Japan? Most importantly, is the idea that healthcare should be a human right, regardless of your gender or background, rather than a privilege.