WOMEN BUYING HEALTH POLICIES PAY A PENALTY
October 31, 2008
Striking new evidence has emerged of a gap in the cost of insurance, as women pay much more than men of the same age for individual health insurance policies providing the same coverage, according to new data.
The disparities are evident in premiums charged by major insurers such as Humana, UnitedHealth, Aetna and Anthem. For example:
- For Humana's Portrait plan with a $2,500 deductible, a woman pays 31 percent more than a man in Denver or Chicago and 32 percent more in Tallahassee, Florida.
- In Columbus, Ohio, a 30-year-old woman pays 49 percent more than a man of the same age for Anthem's Blue Access Economy Plan.
- In Iowa, a 30-year-old woman pays $49 a month more than a man of the same age for a Wellmark Select Enhanced Plan; her premium is $151 -- 48 percent higher than the man's.
- In Nebraska, a 35-year-old woman pays 32 percent more than a man of the same age for coverage from the state insurance pool.
Insurers say they have a sound reason for charging different premiums: Women
ages 19 to 55 tend to cost more than men because they typically use more health care, especially in the childbearing years. Even when excluding maternity coverage, women are more likely to visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take prescription medications and to have certain chronic illnesses.
Cecil D. Bykerk, president of the Society of Actuaries, said that if male and female premiums were equalized, women would pay less but "rates for men would go up."
Says Bykerk, "If maternity care is included as a benefit, it drives up rates for everybody, making the whole policy less affordable."
Source: Robert Pear, "Women Buying Health Policies Pay a Penalty," NEW YORK TIMES, October 29, 2008.
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