by Aaron Shneider
While many women in America have been saddled with a combination of limited coverage and a lack of access to much needed healthcare needs, the enactment of the Affordable Care Act is opening up the pathways for investment opportunities in women’s health. Here are four reasons why:
Although healthcare itself has been a booming industry for decades, many of those having or seeking coverage were often ignored in terms of their specific needs. One of the most immediate consequences of this inequity is that it inherently leads to businesses avoiding large portions of the populous that are still in need of both insurance and healthcare products.
While it is true that the majority of women were insured before the Affordable Care Act, employer-sponsored insurance covered only 57% of women. Almost half of this group do not have individual plans, but rather are covered as dependents through a spouse or parent. In fact, only 7% of women have individual insurance plans. Though 9% of women are accounted for through Medicaid, many slip through the cracks. The combination of these factors leaves approximately one in five adult women uninsured.
The introduction of the ACA, which guarantees coverage for all Americans, is bound to increase the amount of adequately covered women in the US. With the law now taking hold, the increase in insured women is creating a new section of the market that can purchase necessary treatment.
2) The ACA is mandating specific coverage in women’s health
Before the ACA was enacted, private companies were deterred from entering the field of women’s healthcare technology. Due to a significant ratio of women in the US not having any insurance at all, and those which did still not receiving full coverage, the market for health products specific to women was simply too narrow for companies to risk entering the field.
After the passing of the ACA, however, all women in the US are receiving coverage that includes female-specific provisions. Now that women can seek out and afford proper treatment, it is no longer a risk for companies to venture into the field of women’s health. For instance, the biggest three categories of women’s health products, cancer, pregnancy, and fertility, have raised over $170 million since the ACA was enacted.
3) Digital health companies are incentivized to enter women’s health
The recent influx of capital and attention to the women’s health sector by healthtech companies can be attributed to the tremendous market opportunity created by an untapped and educated consumer base of conscious women with unmet needs. Women make 80% of healthcare related decisions for their families, are far more likely to utilize healthcare services than men, and spend almost 70% more on healthcare — costs largely attributable to maternity care, female-specific cancers, and fertility.
Despite being in charge of their (and their families’) health, women in the US are aggravated by the complexity of the current healthcare system when seeking out treatment, diagnostic tests, and trusted health information for their specific needs. Addressing these frustrations, healthtech companies and entrepreneurs are increasingly utilizing their existing technology and services to assist women in making well-informed decisions regarding their health and wellness outcomes.
While male healthcare consumers are more isolated in reacting to the market, female users of healthcare are more prone to give a detailed breakdown of their opinions. In the words of Janica Alvarez, CEO of Naya Health, “Women are really motivated to provide feedback and are open to talking about their frustrations.”
4) Multiple entry points for entrepreneurs
Several pathways are emerging for entrepreneurs addressing women’s health:
For one, entrepreneurs can choose to design specific products that cater to women through each stage of their lives — addressing maternity, post-natal care, and fertility. Other entrepreneurs see women’s health as an entry point and a gateway to the broader healthcare market and a wider demographic. For example, companies designing wearable technology administered for breast wellness screenings have started widening their product offering by designing medical devices used to diagnose and prevent other illnesses. A third trend has been established entrepreneurs in the technology space, opening novel verticals for women’s health in their existing organizations.
As women’s health scales to a significantly larger portion of total healthtech funding and innovation, innovators, investors, and patients alike stand to benefit from the fruits of a growing sector.