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Womens health insurance must change in countries like Germany


This guide outlines the problems with womens health insurance in Germany, and what needs to be done.

Women face a number of additional healthcare barriers that simply don’t exist for men, and many of them are self-made by the industry. As Caroline Criado Perez outlines in her book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, the standard measurement for medications and illnesses is a 40-year-old, 70kg man from the 1960s. Because women need different doses of medication throughout their menstrual cycle, this clearly presents a large data gap.

In a study from 2009, researchers measured pain levels in women compared to men and found that women experienced differing levels of pain depending on their cycle. Hormones also impacted how effective pain medication was, which might lead to problems in even basic treatment for things like dental care where dentists are only allowed specific types depending on the  procedure.

For  more extensive pain medication, someone would need to get an advanced dental insurance plan to be able to reduce the pain at a similar level to what men experience on the medication offered by public health insurance.

Womens health insurance problems

Gender-blindness in healthcare standards

The womens health insurance issue doesn’t just stop at dental care. Criado Perez goes into detail in her book when it comes to how medication and health treatments aren’t looking at women. Instead, she uses the example of menstrual cramps which have proven to be as painful as a heart attack by Dr. John Guillebaud, a professor of reproductive health at University College London.

This causes tremendous economic losses as well with women missing around 9 days of work per year due to severe menstrual pain. And how is this being treated? In Germany, it’s normal for public and even corporate health insurance providers to tell women to go to a gynecologist to get checked for conditions like hormone imbalances that might be treatable with the pill or psychotherapy.

The hidden condition that impacts 190 million women (10%) that no one knows about: Endometriosis: a painful condition where tissue that’s similar to womb tissue begins growing outside of the uterus. This sometimes requires medical intervention and painful surgeries.

A condition that was officially recognized in 1860 by Karl Freiherr von Rokitansky, a medical doctor who studied embryology in Austria, but has been documented by anthropologists for thousands of years. Still, some women need to wait more than two decades before getting a diagnosis in Germany due to the lack of awareness.

 DW reports a woman who, at the age of 11, started experiencing severe pain from endometriosis and underwent 14 different hormonal therapies that had no impact on her periods that lasted anywhere from 10 to 15 days each cycle. They report that she would often pass out from the pain. After 15 years of regular doctor visits, she was finally diagnosed with endometriosis. For women with less severe cases of the condition, it could mean struggling even longer.

Breast cancer screenings aren’t accessible

In Germany, public health insurance is lacking in terms of providing easily accessible specialists who can do regular exams for women. Even breast cancer screenings are age-restricted with your first at 30 (some public health insurance providers are later) and from 50 to 69 the tests are every two years, but with x-rays being available for scans. Only private health insurance providers like Feather offer plans without age restrictions for women.

Most public health insurance providers also don’t cover genetic testing to see if women are more likely to develop breast cancer or not. The genetic test is done by looking at four specific genetic mutations that can lead to a heightened risk of breast cancer and cost around €3,800 – something most women are unable to pay out-of-pocket if a doctor doesn’t consider them to be at a high enough of a risk.

How can healthcare professionals help?

The Frauengesundheitsbewegung, or Women’s Healthcare Movement in English, began in the 1970s to fight against unequal treatment for women in the healthcare industry. Today, it’s an EU-wide goal to bring equal healthcare to both men and women to increase levels of health and decrease early deaths caused by diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses.

More medical testing needs to be done on women to eliminate already-prevalent diseases like endometriosis and recognize different symptoms that illnesses can have in women compared to men.

A language barrier for young female entrepreneurs in Germany

For women who don’t speak German, the system can get even more complicated. Young professionals who want to take care of themselves are unable to navigate the complexities of the German healthcare system and potential gender bias at the same time. This can lead to health problems getting increasingly worse over time with no easy solution in sight.

Only new insurtech start-ups like Feather are leading the way in this area by providing their services in English for German insurance plans. Even people who aren’t yet customers are able to call in to ask questions about the insurance industry and get honest and transparent advice.

The future of womens health insurance and healthcare

In the 2020 report by the Robert Koch Institut (RKI) on women in healthcare, they describe how the EU is attempting to provide equal accessibility and care to both men and women and the strong contrast between the goals of the program and the actual implementation in the healthcare sector.

Even insurance providers are still using outdated models for pain control like p sychotherapy for period pain instead of checking for conditions like endometriosis. Even if someone is lucky to get an appointment with a therapist covered by public health insurance, it’s unlikely that psychotherapy will be able tohelp mitigate the impact of an actual debilitating medical condition.


By working to improve both the insurance industry and the healthcare industry for women, a better understanding of what care women need can be gained along with an improved quality of life for the women in the system.

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