Health insurance gender bias ends in California

Andrew Freiburghouse | January 18, 2011

Joining in the battle over women's health care, California has begun prohibiting health insurance companies from using gender to determine individual health insurance policy rates.

California is not the first to make charging woman more for health insurance against the law. Montana was the first of a dozen states to prohibit health insurance gender bias when it instituted measures in 1983, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2014, Federal health care reform laws will require all states to prohibit insurance companies from using gender to determine rates.

Advocates of gender rating point up that women generally incur higher lifetime medical costs. Childbirth and more frequent doctor visits are two primary reasons woman cost more than men to insure. They should pay more because they cost more, proponents of health insurance gender ratings say.

Those who favor ending health insurance gender ratings point up that women pay into the same pool as insured men, and their premiums help pay for prostate exams, erectile dysfunction drugs and other male-specific conditions. Ending gender ratings will level the playing field for everyone, they say.

Not all women benefit from an end to gender rating. Healthier older women might see their health insurance coverage rates increase, while same-aged males are likely to see decreases, according to insurance industry experts.

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