For Women, the Benefits of Insurance Outweigh Its Costs

The value of the free birth control, pap smears, and screenings women would get for free is more than the price of a mid-range plan, a new study finds.
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The so-called "Young Invincibles" get their name from the fact that many under-30s say they won't sign up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline because they're already healthy.

That may be true, but if they're women, they might be leaving money on the table.

For young women who qualify for subsidies, the free benefits of insurance offset the cost of paying for it, according to a new analysis from Nerdwallet, a consumer financial education site.

The company calculated that for a 27-year-old who earns an income of $25,000, the cost of a silver insurance plan will be approximately $1,740 per year, and a bronze plan will cost approximately $1,116 per year

But that cost is cancelled out by the range of women's preventative health services that all insurance plans must now cover. For example, while a year's supply of Yasmin birth control would normally have cost women $744, it's now free for those with insurance under Obamacare. Nerdwallet estimated the value of some of the more common health screenings and services for women across five cities. Because the cost of doctors' visits vary regionally, an insured woman in Houston would save about $1,215 a year, while one in New York would save roughly $1,247:

For the analysis, Nerdwallet used HHS data to calculate average premiums, AMA and Medicare data for the out-of-pocket costs, and GoodRX data for the cost of Yasmin. You can see the full methodology here. 

Of course, if you're not on birth control and don't get pap smears, because "Extreme Private-Parts Danger" is your middle name, you would probably not reap these rewards. And it's worth noting that a 27-year-old who makes more than the cutoff for the federal subsidies, or about $46,680, would actually pay considerably more for a silver plan: about $2,500 per year. 

But remember, that price includes all medical care. It covers all of the free women's services listed above and all of your fell-off-my-bike, what-is-this-rash, why-won't-this-migraine-go-away medical concerns.

You can't put a price on knowing it's not herpes—but if you did it would be $214 a month for the second-lowest price mid-tier plan without a subsidy.

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Olga Khazan is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

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