Health care history was made yesterday in the nation’s capitol but unfortunately, there are still some inequity issues that need to be dealt with. Even if the national health care reform bill sticks, as it should, gender rating will remain alive and well. Gender rating is the strategy health insurance companies employ to charge women higher premiums for coverage than men, or to deny them coverage altogether for "pre-existing conditions" such as pregnancy, previous Ceserean section or because they have been victimized by domestic violence. Women’s health advocates call this practice what it is – gender discrimination, plain and simple.
A recent survey of selected health insurance companies that write policies in Utah demonstrates that Utah women between the ages of 25 and 55 pay an average of 18 percent more than men for the same health coverage. However, one company, SelectHealth, based in Utah, currently offers equal coverage for the same amount to both genders. That bright spot aside, statistics also show that women who do not have employer provided insurance because they are unemployed or self-employed are disproportionately impacted by the practice.
Utah is not alone when it comes to these troubling statistics. A 2008 survey conducted by the National Women’s Law Center indicates that women in their 20s, 30s and 40s can pay up to 37 percent more than men for the same coverage. This fact compounds the wage inequity that most women face – they are squeezed from both directions – less pay for the same work and more in premiums for the same health care coverage. How is that equitable?
The Utah legislature recently took a glancing pass at the issue in the form of HB294, which will ban the gender rating practice for small group policies if it becomes law. But even if the governor signs the bill into law, the vast majority of uninsured and insured women in Utah are still left out in the cold. Gender rating is banned outright in 11 states and is regulated in 2 others currently. That is a good start but more needs to be done. State by state efforts are better than nothing on this issue, but a federal solution would cut to the chase and nip the problem in the bud. Urge your federal representatives to take the current health care reform movement one step further to put women on equal footing with men when it comes to health insurance.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.