The New York Times today picked up the story the National Women’s Law Center has been telling for awhile now: in the individual insurance market, women pay significantly higher premiums for health care than men do. In the vast majority of states, it is perfectly legal for insurers to charge individual policy-holders different monthly premiums based on their gender. Insurers defend their decisions as actuarially justified, meaning that women consume more health care and thus should pay higher premiums. In particular, insurers often point to the high cost of maternity coverage as a reason to charge women more. But maternity care isn’t even covered under most individual insurance plans. And if it were? Mila Kofman, the insurance superintendent in Maine, a state that prohibits sex-based rates in health insurance, said:
“There’s a strong public policy reason to prohibit gender-based rates.
Only women can bear children. There’s an expense to that. But having
babies benefits communities and society as a whole. Women should not
have to bear the entire expense.”
At the NWLC blog, Womenstake, Ellen Newcombe and Jen Swedish comment:
Some comments to the NYT article contend that it’s fair for women to
pay more for health insurance because men routinely pay more for car
insurance. We’re not saying gender rating for car insurance is fair,
either. But according to recent research, 22,000 adults died in 2006 because they lacked health insurance. No one dies because they cannot buy car insurance.
So which of the presidential candidates wants going to push Americans toward the private insurance market, where women are discriminated against? That would be John McCain. Check out Kay Steiger’s in-depth analysis of McCain’s plan for health reform vs. Barack Obama’s.