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San Francisco Challenges Biased State Health Insurance Law

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has sent a letter to California Attorney General Jerry Brown giving notice that the city will sue the state if legislation that allows gender rating in health insurance remains law. Gender rating is a practice where insurance companies are allowed to charge different premiums to men and women. Two California state laws, passed in 1991 and 2005 respectively, allow gender rating in the state, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The practice is illegal or restricted in twelve states.

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.

Herrera told the San Francisco Chronicle that “this is something that acts in a discriminatory way over women who are seeking health insurance…there’s a direct fiscal impact to the city when women who are being discriminated against are unable to get health insurance. They’re forced into getting their health care from San Francisco General Hospital and city clinics.”

Spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans> Robert Zirkelbach defended gender rating to the San Francisco Chronicle: “Health insurance premiums reflect the underlying cost of health care, and at younger ages women tend to use more health care services than men.”

Sources:

San Francisco Chronicle 12/31/08; NWLC Report 9/08

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