The California State Assembly passed a law that will prohibit health insurance companies and HMOs from charging men and women different rates on the same policies, a practice known as gender rating, last month. Assembly Bill 119 will go into effect January 1, 2011, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Assemblymember Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), one of the authors of the bill, said in a press release “Higher rates for women keep them from being able to afford coverage, which means reduced access to health care and poorer health outcomes for women…Women seeking health insurance in the individual market will now have protections from gender discrimination.”
Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), co-author of the bill, said in a press release, “Employers cannot allow health insurance companies to charge higher premiums to their customers on the basis of gender, and that same policy should apply to individual health care plans…Women are more likely to work part time, less likely to receive health insurance from their employers, and often get paid lower wages for doing the same job as their male counterparts. Insurers should not make matters worse by charging women more than men for health insurance.”
In a 2008 National Women’s Law Center Report (see PDF), the Center “found huge and arbitrary variations in each state and across the country in the difference in premiums charged to women and men.” The study found that a 40-year-old woman could pay up to 39% more for insurance than a man the same age in California. In total, more than one million women in California have been negatively impacted by gender rating.
The city of San Francisco filed a lawsuit against California State legislators earlier this year and charged that insurers who use the practice of gender rating are discriminating based on sex. California law already bans health insurance premium discrimination on the basis of religion, marital status, sexual orientation, race, color, and national origin.