NYT story here. Below are a couple of short excerpts:
… Insurers say they have a sound reason for charging different premiums: Women ages 19 to 55 tend to cost more than men because they typically use more health care, especially in the childbearing years.
But women still pay more than men for insurance that does not cover maternity care. In the individual market, maternity coverage may be offered as an optional benefit, or rider, for a hefty additional premium.
Crystal D. Kilpatrick, a healthy 33-year-old real estate agent in Austin, Tex., said:”I’ve delayed having a baby because my insurance policy does not cover maternity care. If I have a baby, I’ll have to pay at least $8,000 out of pocket.”
In general, insurers say, they charge women more than men of the same age because claims experience shows that women use more health care services. They are more likely to visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take prescription medications and to have certain chronic illnesses. …
… Humana, for example, says its Portrait plan offers”ideal coverage for people who want benefits like those provided by big employers.”For a Portrait plan with a $2,500 deductible, a 30-year-old woman pays 31 percent more than a man of the same age in Denver or Chicago and 32 percent more in Tallahassee, Fla.
In Columbus, Ohio, a 30-year-old woman pays 49 percent more than a man of the same age for Anthem’s Blue Access Economy plan. The woman’s monthly premium is $92.87, while a man pays $62.30. At age 40, the gap is somewhat smaller, with Anthem charging women 38 percent more than men for that policy. …
… in Dallas or Houston, women ages 25 to 29 pay 39 percent more than men of the same age when they buy coverage from the Texas Health Insurance Risk Pool. In Nebraska, a 35-year-old woman pays 32 percent more than a man of the same age for coverage from the state insurance pool.
… In Iowa, a 30-year-old woman pays $49 a month more than a man of the same age for one of Wellmark’s Select Enhanced plans. Her premium, at $151, is 48 percent higher than the man’s.
The National Women’s Law Center, being the awesome entity that it is, has a detailed report compiled already, entitled “Nowhere to Turn: How the Individual Health Insurance Market Fails Women.” The report notes in its Executive Summary:
Buying insurance in the individual market is very different from getting health insurance through an employer. Women who get health insurance from their employer are protected by several important federal and state laws. For example, most employers cannot charge their employees different premiums for their health insurance. And employers must include maternity coverage in the health insurance that they provide to their employees. In contrast, states are left to regulate the sale of health insurance in the individual market; and in the vast majority of states, few if any such protections exist for women who purchase individual health coverage. Furthermore, those seeking health coverage in the individual market are often less able to afford insurance without the benefit of an employer to share the cost of the premium. …
… NWLC found that the individual insurance market is a very difficult place for women to buy health coverage. Insurance companies can refuse to sell women coverage altogether due to a history of any health problems, or charge women higher premiums based on factors such as their gender, age and health status. This coverage is often very costly and limited in scope:and it often fails to meet women’s needs. In short, too many women face too many obstacles obtaining comprehensive, affordable health coverage in the
individual market:simply because they are women. …
The report discusses in detail the following findings:
1. Women often face higher premiums than men. Under a practice known as gender rating, insurance companies are permitted in most states to charge men and women different premiums.
2. It is difficult and costly for women to find health insurance that covers maternity care. The vast majority of individual market health insurance policies that NWLC found do not cover maternity care at all. A limited number of insurers sell separate maternity coverage for an additional fee known as a”rider,”but this supplemental coverage is often expensive and limited in scope.
3. Insurance companies can reject applicants for health coverage for a variety of reasons that are particularly relevant to women. For example, it is still legal in nine states and D.C. for insurers to reject applicants who are survivors of domestic violence. Insurers can also reject women for coverage simply for having previously had a Cesarean section (C-section).
4. While both women and men face additional challenges in the individual insurance market, these problems compound the affordability challenges women already face.
NB: If Barack Obama wins the election, it is going to be because a majority of women voters believe he will right by us and our sisters:
Health insurance is one area of many in which he will need to act decisively, to justify our faith in him.