Newspapers Respond To Report On Premiums

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Two newspapers recently published editorials responding to a recent report that found women generally pay higher premiums than men for the same individual health insurance policies. Summaries appear below.

* Honolulu Star-Bulletin: "With insurance proposals likely to be on the agenda next year, Congress should make sure women aren't penalized for being women, which is essentially what insurance companies are doing," an editorial in the Star-Bulletin states. According to the Star-Bulletin, insurance companies justify charging higher premiums for women because they more frequently visit physicians, take medications, have chronic illness and get pregnant. The Star-Bulletin notes, "Men, too, tend to develop certain chronic conditions for which drugs are prescribed."

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The editorial adds, "Besides, doctors and insurance companies urge people to get regular exams to avoid more expensive treatment when illnesses go unnoticed." In addition, surveys have found that "women still pay more than men for policies that don't even provide maternity coverage." The Star-Bulletin concludes, "If financial incentives or tax credits are considered to help people get insurance, Congress has to level premium costs or women clearly will be at a disadvantage" (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 10/31).

* New York Times: As more workers begin losing their jobs and subsequently their group health insurance and are forced "to scramble to find affordable insurance policies in the open market," the problem will be "particularly acute for women, who often pay far higher premiums than men for the same health coverage, if they can get coverage at all," according to a Times editorial. Although the insurance industry justifies the disparity by noting that women "make greater use of health care services than do men," that does not "explain why one Missouri company charges 40-year-old women 140% more than men; another only 15% more," according to the Times.

"Insurance companies long ago stopped charging premiums based on race" and there are "laws against using gender to set rates in employer-based health insurance," the Times reports, adding, "Surely it is time to eliminate gender-based premiums in the individual health insurance market as well." The Times concludes, "Otherwise women, who typically earn less than men, may find themselves priced out of adequate health coverage" (New York Times, 11/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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