October 08, 2009

Time Is Now to End Gender Discrimination in Health Care

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., today backed his female Senate colleagues’ call for health reform to end discriminative practices by insurers based on gender. The nine female senators came together this morning to highlight practices Udall wants to reform including denial of coverage to domestic violence survivors, charging higher premiums for women than men, and the exclusion of maternity care services.

“As a husband, father, brother and son, I refuse to accept a health care system that allows insurance companies to discriminate against women simply because they are female,” said Udall. “And the fact that we have not outright banned a horrible circumstance like domestic violence from being considered a pre-existing condition and basis to reject coverage is offensive.”

Under the current system, many insurance companies charge women as much as double for the same insurance plan as men, making health insurance even harder to afford. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation Report, only 14 states require insurance policies offered in the individual market to cover maternity care.

“I applaud my female colleagues for standing up against this discrimination. Comprehensive health insurance reform would even the playing field for all Americans regardless of gender and their voices are invaluable to bringing the current disparities in the system to light.”

For women, affordable health insurance is frequently NOT an option.

Only six percent of women aged 18-64 are able to purchase insurance outside employment, primarily because they’re discriminated against when they apply for coverage AND when their premiums are determined. This leads to significant disparities in women’s ability to afford health care and, when compared to men, women “…are more likely to forgo needed care because of cost and to have problems paying their medical bills, accrue medical debt, or both.” Senate health insurance reform ends these discriminatory practices by insurance companies and ensures that women are able to obtain the health care coverage they need at a price they can afford. [Commonwealth Fund, 5/2009]

HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM STOPS COVERAGE DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN

Insurance Companies Charge Women More Than Men for the Same Coverage. In the majority of states, insurance companies are permitted to charge women more than men for the exact same insurance policy. For example, “(H)olding other factors constant, a 22-year-old woman can be charged one and a half times the premium of a 22-year-old man.” [HealthReform.gov, accessed 9/29/09]

Senate Health Insurance Reform Stops This Discriminatory Practice. Senate health insurance reform ends gender discrimination in pricing insurance, ensuring that women and men pay the same price for the same coverage. [Affordable Health Choices Act, Senate HELP Committee, accessed 9/22/09; Chairman’s Mark, Senate Finance Committee, 9/16/09]

Insurance Companies Deny Coverage to Victims of Domestic Violence. Eight states and the District of Columbia permit health insurers to deny health insurance coverage to survivors of domestic violence by labeling their experience a “pre-existing condition.” Yet perpetrators of domestic violence don’t face this discrimination by health insurers. [National Women’s Law Center, 2008]

Senate Health Insurance Reform Ends This Discrimination. Senate health insurance reform prohibits insurances companies from denying insurance to anyone solely because they are a survivor of domestic violence. In fact, Senate health insurance reform ends all coverage denials for this and other “pre-existing conditions.” [Affordable Health Choices Act, Senate HELP Committee, accessed 9/22/2009; Chairman’s Mark, Senate Finance Committee, 9/16/09]

Very Few Insurance Companies Cover Maternity Care. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that just 14 states require policies offered in the individual market to cover maternity care. A study by the National Women’s Law Center of 3,500 insurance policies offered in the individual market found that just 12 percent included comprehensive maternity coverage. [Kaiser Family Foundation, accessed 9/29/09; National Women’s Law Center, 2008]

Senate Health Insurance Reform Ends Discrimination Against Pregnant Women. Senate health insurance reform prohibits insurance companies from issuing policies in the individual and small group markets that do not include coverage of maternity care services. [Affordable Health Choices Act, Senate HELP Committee, accessed 9/22/09; Chairman’s Mark, Senate Finance Committee, 9/16/09]