Thursday, November 13, 2008

Women Pay Much More for Independent Health Insurance

Women often pay up to 50% more than men for independent health insurance not offered by employers. Women Buying Health Policies Pay a Penalty, New York Times, October 29, 2008. I find this appalling. It simply seems wrong. Insurance companies naturally cite actuarial realities to justify this disparity. Women give birth, women go to doctors more. Not only is their insurance more costly, it often does not offer maternity coverage. A woman cited in the article was putting off having a child because it would cost her $8,000 out of pocket. In contrast, employers cannot legally charge women higher rates than men for the same insurance. It's considered sex discrimination. Shouldn't the same principle apply in the individual health insurance market? It's not like women get pregnant by themselves usually. Except for lesbians or single women using sperm donors, a man is involved when a woman has a baby. Moreover, there's a public interest in women getting prenatal care and giving birth to healthy babies. If insurance is too expensive, women are less likely to get prenatal care. I like this quote: "Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group that has examined hundreds of individual policies, said: “The wide variation in premiums could not possibly be justified by actuarial principles. We should not tolerate women having to pay more for health insurance, just as we do not tolerate the practice of using race as a factor in setting rates.”"

After this article was published, the New York Times ran an editorial arguing for elimination of gender-based price disparities. Gouging Women on Health Insurance

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