Health care is growing less affordable for American adults—particularly women—with employer-sponsored health insurance, research finds.

“In recent years, employer-sponsored health insurance has become less adequate in providing financial protection for all kinds of health care services,” says Avni Gupta, a PhD student in the department of public health policy and management at the New York University School of Global Public Health and the lead author of the analysis in JAMA.

The majority of working-age adults in the United States (61% as of 2019) obtain health insurance coverage through their employers. Despite improvements in employer-sponsored insurance by the Affordable Care Act—including extending parents’ coverage to uninsured young adults, eliminating copays and deductibles for preventive services, and implementing maternal care coverage—health care costs and out-of-pocket expenses have continued to rise.

Using the National Health Interview Survey, a nationally representative annual survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers analyzed data from 2000 to 2020 for more than 238,000 adults aged 19 to 64 years who obtained their health care coverage through an employer or union.

Women with employer-sponsored insurance found all types of health care services to be less affordable than men. On average, 3.9% of women and 2.7% of men reported that medical care was unaffordable, 8.1% of women and 5.4% of men said dental care was unaffordable, 5.2% of women and 2.7% of men said prescription medications were unaffordable, and 2.1% of women and 0.8% of men reported that mental health care was unaffordable.

“Lower incomes and higher health care needs among women could be driving these differences in reported affordability,” says Gupta. “Employer-sponsored insurance plans need to redesign their benefit packages to reduce sex-based disparities.”

Read the full article about health insurance costs by Rachel Harrison at Futurity .