The Rhode Island General Assembly today passed legislation introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) that would ban health insurers from utilizing the discriminatory practice known as gender rating, or routinely charging women and men different premiums for individual insurance.
“Women face unconscionable disparities when buying health insurance in the individual market,” Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) said. “Women sometimes are charged 10 percent to 25 percent to 50 percent more than men for insurance providing identical coverage, especially during the age bracket associated with child-bearing years.”
This legislation (2021-S 0003A, 2021-H 5763) would prohibit insurance companies from varying the premium rates charged for a health coverage plan based on the gender of the individual policy holder, enrollee, subscriber, or member.
“The discrimination that women have faced when it comes to the costs of health insurance has existed for far too long and needs to end,” said Representative Kazarian. “If we truly value the positive impacts of regular healthcare, there is no reason women should be discriminated against and forced to pay much-higher rates for their medical care. This bill will eliminate this gross injustice and finally bring women in our state the healthcare equality that they rightfully deserve.”
When it comes to health insurance, women are considered a higher risk than men because they tend to visit the doctor more frequently, live longer, and have babies. The practice is similar to car insurance companies charging a higher premium to insure teenage drivers.
Research from a 2012 National Women’s Law Center report entitled, “Turning to Fairness: Insurance Discrimination Against Women Today and the Affordable Care Act,” states that 92 percent of best-selling plans charge women more for health insurance coverage than men in states without laws banning gender rating. Only 3 percent of these plans cover maternity services. It also states that the practice of gender rating costs women approximately $1 billion per year, based on an average of 2012 advertised premiums and the most recent data on the number of women in the individual health insurance market. Excluding maternity coverage, the report further says that nearly one-third of plans examined charge 25- to 40-year-old women at least 30 percent more than men for the same coverage. In some cases, the difference is even greater.
The National Women’s Law Center is a research and advocacy group, which works to expand, protect and promote opportunity and advancement for women and girls.
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