Thursday, October 30, 2008

Women and the Individual Health Insurance Market

Via Megan at Jezebel. So the New York Times reports something that I wrote about last week: The individual health insurance market is much more expensive for women than it is for men. Thanks to a report by the National Women’s Law Center, people are discovering that insurance companies are charging higher premiums–and often skipping out on key pieces of coverage like maternity care–for women that buy their insurance on the individual market. This graphic that the Times produced shows how women pay more across the board even if they live in different locations or are in different age groups.

There are some states that have already legislated regulation that bans gender bias, but many states don’t. Even fewer require maternity coverage on the individual market. And perhaps the most shocking part of the NWLC report is that in nine states and the District of Columbia, it is still legal to deny coverage for a victim of domestic violence–on the grounds that it is a pre-existing condition.

The reason that you won’t find such biases in employer-based coverage is because the courts have determined that many of the non-discrimination workplace laws (including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978) also apply to employer-sponsored insurance coverage. So it seems that those same protections need to exist on the individual market, even though only about 7 percent of women get insured that way. Far more women–about 18 percent–are uninsured, perhaps because it’s so expensive to buy coverage on the individual market.

Cross posted at Pushback.

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