Women pay more for health insurance than men, because of a practice called “gender rating” that lets insurers charge women more for coverage. A new report from the National Women’s Law Center found even women in good health often get charged more than male counterparts. Collectively, discriminatory health insurance practices cost American women $1 billion more per year than men.
The New York Times reported earlier this week on the discrepancy, noting that “differences in rates for men and women are not explained by the cost of maternity care” (emphasis mine). Maternity coverage isn’t generally part of the standard package of individual insurance plan benefits, though it may be an optional benefit, or rider, for a “hefty” additional premium.
Insurers said they charged women more than men because claims showed that women ages 19 to 55 tended to use more health care services. They are more likely to visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take prescription drugs and to have certain chronic illnesses.
Under the Affordable Care Act, all states will be required to stop gender ratings come 2014. In the NYT article, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said eliminating the gender rating was one of the most important changes made by the health care law.
But like many aspects of the law, a ban on gender rating could be affected if the Supreme Court voids the individual mandate.
The National Women’s Law Center launched a campaign ”to educate women about the benefits of the health care law, including ending such insurance discrimination” and “engage them to fight to protect the law.” The Center’s report is a part of that campaignn (called I Will NOT Be Denied). A few other things the researchers found:
• In states that haven’t banned gender rating, 92 percent of best-selling individual insurance plans charge women more than men, even though most don’t cover maternity services.
• More than half of these plans (56%) will charge a non-smoking 40-year-old woman more than a 40-year-old man who smokes.
• In 25 states, there is no insurance plan available on the individual market that covers maternity services.
Gender rating also occurs in the group insurance market (i.e., the kind you have if you have employer-based health care coverage). According to NWLC, businesses with predominately female workforces routinely get charged more for group coverage.