Lawmakers to End Health Care Gender Pricing

May 11, 2009 11:00:37 PM PDT
A 2008 study by The National Women's Law Center found that health insurers sometimes charged women as much as 140 percent more than men for identical coverage even with no maternity benefits.

Student Kathryn Steblay, 27, pays $100 a month for a bare bones individual health insurance plan and does not like the price difference at all.

"It absolutely infuriated me, I mean, immediately, what comes to my mind is equality, this is discrimination against women," Steblay said.

The State Assembly just approved a proposal to end what is called "gender pricing" in California's individual health insurance market.

"This is just simply gender discrimination," Assemblyman Dave Jones (D) said. "Access to health care can save lives. It can make tremendous difference in one's health and well-being. This bill ensures that there's equal access of insurance in California."

The vote was along party lines with Republicans opposing the ban in favor of basing rates on risk.

The insurance industry says they charge women higher premiums because those under 55-years-old use health care services more than men. They also points out women pay less for life insurance because they live longer.

"This discrimination is not based on gender, per se, but it's based on the underlying factors that make an actuarial table work; this is Insurance 101," Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R) said.

California already bans gender pricing for group health insurance, like the ones offered at work. And services, like dry-cleaning and haircuts, cannot be priced differently for men and women.

Steblay applauds the Assembly for adding individual health insurance to the list.

"I think it's an awesome milestone, this is just the first step in addressing these issues of inequality," Steblay said.

Ten states have already banned gender rating for health insurance in the individual market. California's proposal now heads to the Senate.


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