Report: Health Insurance Gender Discrimination Costs Women $1 Billion a Year

92% of best-selling insurance plans gender rate

According to a report from the non-profit National Women's Law Center, the practice of health insurance companies charging women more than men for the same coverage is rampant, and costs women one billion dollars a year.

The report, Turning to Fairness: Insurance discrimination against women today and the Affordable Care Act (pdf), states that although insurance companies are aware of this discrimination, they have not taken steps to eliminate the widespread practice.

Seeing Red Rally TX State Capitol 3/13/12

Some states have banned the practice, the group reports, but it won't end nationally until the full enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2014.

From the report:

  • Gender rating, the practice of charging women different premiums than men, results in significantly higher rates charged to women throughout the country. In states that have not banned the practice, the vast majority, 92%, of best-selling plans gender rate, for example, charging 40-year-old women more than 40-year-old men for coverage. Only 3% of these plans cover maternity services.

  • Based on an average of currently advertised premiums and the most recent data on the number of women in the individual health insurance market, the practice of gender rating costs women approximately $1 billion a year.

  • Even with maternity coverage excluded, nearly a third of plans examined charge 25- and 40-year-old women at least 30% more than men for the same coverage and in some cases, the difference is far greater. For example, one company charged 25-year-old women 85% more than men for the same coverage, again excluding maternity coverage altogether. These differences result in women paying significantly more for health insurance every year than their male counterparts. For example, one plan in South Dakota charges a 40-year-old woman $1252.80 more a year than a 40-year-old man for the same coverage.

  • The Affordable Care Act applies nationally and eliminates gender rating in the individual market, requires all plans on the individual market to provide maternity coverage, and prohibits sex discrimination in health plans from insurance companies that receive federal funds or are conducted by the federal government.

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