Kerry Introduces Women’s Health Insurance Fairness Act

On May 6, 2009 Senator John Kerry introduced the Women’s Health Insurance Fairness Act.
The legislation would prevent insurers in the individual market from
charging more, denying or limiting coverage based on gender or
pregnancy and would require maternity coverage.

The legislation was inspired by a report published by the National Women’s Law Center titled Nowhere to Turn: How the Individual Health Insurance Market Fails Women.
The report finds that women are often charged higher premiums than men
and have difficulty finding comprehensive and affordable maternity
coverage. In addition, insurance companies can reject applicants for
reasons that disproportionately impact women, such as being a survivor
of domestic violence or having previously undergone a C-section.

5.7 million American women are forced to buy coverage in the
individual insurance market (those who receive coverage through their
employer are already protected under laws that prevent charging
different premiums and refusing maternity coverage). Right now these
women are reliant on state regulation of the individual market, but
very few states provide protections against gender-based discrimination
in insurance coverage.

The new legislation would make it illegal for companies offering
health insurance in the individual market to consider gender when
determining an applicant’s premiums. Companies could not limit or deny
coverage in any way based on a past or future pregnancy, method of
delivery, or pregnancy outcome. The Secretary of Health and Human
Services (HHS) would be directed to create a minimum benefit standard
for maternity care that requires coverage of all maternity services.
Failure of companies to comply could result in a minimum fine of

The new HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, has a history of fighting
against gender discrimination in the individual insurance market and
for mandated maternity coverage.

The Women’s Health Insurance Fairness Act would create real
substantive improvements in the lives of women who do not receive
health insurance through an employer. It responds to a problem that
exists at the intersection of class, reproductive and gender-based
oppression and therefore deserves the support of all of us in the
reproductive justice movement.

This legislation is part of the growing effort to reform health care
in the US. The early focus on gender discrimination and maternity care,
a vital aspect of any comprehensive approach to reproductive health, is
especially encouraging. As a Massachusetts voter I am especially proud
of Senator Kerry today.

The legislation is currently in the Senate Health, Education, Labor,
and Pensions committee, chaired by Senator Kennedy, a long time health
care advocate (and another Massachusetts senator).

You can thank Senator Kerry for standing up for women’s health by calling his DC offices at (202) 224-2742 or emailing him via this form.

Cross posted at Choice Words.

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  • brady-swenson

    for posting this nice writeup on Kerry’s important bill. Indeed it is encouraging to see legislation focusing on gender discrimination and maternity care leading the way in this new season of focus on health care reform. Keep us updated!

  • harry834

    All things come to those who wait, and now John Kerry has a chance to make the difference he’s been dreaming of

  • invalid-0

    So glad to hear about this effort, it’s a big part of the mechanisms that hold the dysfunction of our current system in place. I hope the “minimum benefit standard for maternity care that requires coverage of all maternity services” includes home birth, and that in turn midwives will have access to reasonably priced professional liability insurance and state laws that facilitate diverse and abundant health care.

  • josh-truitt

    I completely agree. There is no language in the legislation currently referring to home births, but I believe any comprehensive maternity coverage must include this option for birthing.

  • freeflyaz

    It takes two to make a baby, but only women can bear children. They should not also bear the whole expense. Go Kerry.

    Gabe@ Insurance Quotes