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Women paying more than men for health insurance

New evidence has emerged today that women pay much more than men of the same age for individual insurance policies providing identical coverage. A reporter at The New York Times looked at premiums charged by major providers such as Humana, UnitedHealth and Aetna and found discrepancies of up to 49 percent in the amounts asked of men and women.

Humana, for example, offers a plan called Portrait with a $2,500 deductible, for which a 30-year-old woman in Denver or Chicago would pay 31 percent more than a 30-year-old man.

Although this is not a new trend, it has been accentuated by the worsening economic climate. Former employees who have lost company health insurance along with their jobs are seeking out individual plans. Whereas sex discrimination is prohibited for job-based insurance policies, individual insurers are in most states free to increase women’s premiums to cover the perceived cost of maternity. Even in insurance policies that do not cover maternity costs, some insurers claim that higher premiums for women are justified by evidence that women use healthcare services more than men.

Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, told the Times that, “We should not tolerate women having to pay more for health insurance, just as we do not tolerate the practice of using race as a factor in setting rates.”

Sources:

The New York Times 10/29/08; The Wall Street Journal 10/30/08

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