Gender (rating): A pre-existing condition?
As nails continue to be hammered into the public option coffin, I am baffled at the professed public’s willingness to trust the health insurance industry. After all, this is the group that brought us gender-rating. Gender rating is a practice where insurance companies charge women more than men for individual health insurance policies even if these women and men are the same age and in the same risk category. In most states including my home state of Connecticut, major insurance companies like Human, UnitedHealth, Aetna and Anthem, a unit of WellPoint, charge higher premiums for women than men from ages 19-55. Often these pricing disparities are sizable, in cases upward of 50 percent. It is no coincidence that these higher premiums correspond with a woman’s child baring years.
Beyond blatant discrimination, the message insurance companies is sending women is that even before children become a thought, they are the full financial responsibility of the mother. How politically incorrect is that? What’s worse is that independent women tend to need individual health insurance policies more than men because they tend to hold part-time or more flexible jobs in order to care for children or other family members. Men are more likely to hold salaried positions where health insurance options are a part of their employment package. Often divorcing or widowed women wake up the shock that their health insurance premiums often more than double when they have to go off the family plan, just at a time when they are financially strapped. Women aren’t the only ones who should be offended by this notion that children are the sole responsibility of mothers. Fathers or prospective fathers should cringe at the implication that they are shut out of the financial responsibility of child baring and rearing.
What surprises me most about the current healthcare debate is that there is very little public discourse about the gross inequity of gender-rating. Talk show hosts, newspapers and even the President rarely mention it. I hope that whatever healthcare reform comes our way abolishes the practice of separating out insurance pricing according to gender. As for the insurance companies: fool us once, shame on them. Fool us twice, shame on us!