Is having a uterus a pre-existing condition? If you are an insurance company, then maybe. Outrageous? Yes, but the problem is not "women," per se. Rather, it is the whole issue of differential (as opposed to deferential) treatment and discriminatory charging—you get charged more the more likely you are to use services.
Clearly, women live to older ages and are more likely to use medical services than their male counterparts. So, given the premise that it's OK to charge more for heavier users of care, it's not irrational to assume that women can be charged more.
In California, a progressive state disallows "gender rating," which is the practice of charging women higher insurance rates than men for the same service. Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the Natonal Women's Law Center, testified on Capitol Hill that their group studied the matter and report:
- Women are regularly denied coverage for "pre-existing conditions" that can include pregnancy or a previous C-section.
- Women are charged about half again as much than men for health coverage.
- Of the more than 3,500 plans studied, 3/5ths did not even cover maternity care.
- In eight states and the District of Columbia, insurers are allowed to use a woman's status as a survivor of domestic violence to deny her health insurance.
Main Source: Baldas T. "Advocates Say Being a Woman Is Not a 'Pre-Existing Condition" The National Law Journal; Oct. 16, 2009
From: Fredrick H. (MD, PhD, JD)
Date: Oct 16, 2009 4:58 PM
America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) released a PricewaterhouseCoopers study that suggests healthcare insurance premiums would rise under a bill, approved October 13, 2009 by the Senate Finance Committee. The proximate cause?—the bill would lower penalties for those who decline to purchase insurance. Karen Ignagni, President and Chief Executive of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) ignobly defended the study with: "costs are going to go up for individuals and working families if we don't have everyone participate."
"Health Insurers Commit to 'Equal Health Care' for Women" by Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor
Response from Fredrick:
It's the basic premise of discriminatory pricing that should be called into question, not its particular application. If the purpose of insurance is to spread risk, it is not consistent to charge riskier persons more than less risky ones, except perhaps for behaviors entirely within their own control, like overindulgence, smoking and hang-gliding.