Healthcare: When Women Pay More
I'm a self-proclaimed optimist and hopeful about the "yes, we can" message emanating from Washington. But I felt as if I'd been kicked in the gut last week when I read a New York Times article by Robert Pear about price gauging in health policies for women. The article points out that according to new data from online brokers and insurance companies, women pay much more than men of the same age for individual insurance policies providing identical coverage.
I'm a financial planner and many of my clients are single or divorced moms who buy individual insurance policies. They do so because they often do not qualify for an employer's group policy. They generally cannot afford to work the number of hours required to be eligible for such plans because they need to be available when a child gets sick or needs care after school. These single mothers are already struggling to make ends meet; their income has stagnated over the last several years while prices continue to rise. So I recognize that every dollar a mother spends on healthcare is one that she can no longer allocate to her child's welfare.
On average, women already pay a far higher price than men for their decision to have children. According to www.momsrising.org, non-mothers earn 10 percent less than their male counterparts; mothers earn 27 percent less; and single mothers earn between 34 percent and 44 percent less. (Momsrising.org is an organization that brings motherhood and family issues to the forefront of the country's awareness.) The idea that these same women are paying more than men for identical healthcare coverage is doubly regressive and reeks of inequity. Federal antidiscrimination laws protect those covered by an employer's group policy from such a pricing disparity. Those covered by individual plans need the same protection. That's change we need urgently.