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According to a New York Times article, women are paying more for health insurance than men even though the coverage is identical. And we’re not talking about a small difference. The size and prevalence of these disparities are very surprising, because women are paying hundreds of dollars a year more than men. The reason this is an issue is because of a practice known as “gender rating.” This allows insurers to set different health insurance rates for men and women. Gender rating can happen because there are no federal guidelines governing specific amounts health insurance companies can charge in the individual market. Among states that gender rate, some insurers charge a 40-year-old woman up to 48% more than a man the same age for the same coverage.

Though the sector of women who are buying individual coverage is low because most women receive health insurance coverage from their employers, it is becoming more and more popular. Because of the declining economy, many people are losing their jobs and are being forced to buy individual health insurance on their own. Also, many employers are now ridding their companies of health coverage and instead giving employees a fixed sum to buy insurance in the individual market.

But why charge women more for health insurance than men? The one main reason is that women are more likely than men to access healthcare services, thus providing women under the age of 55 healthcare costs substantially more than men of the same age. Women are more likely to visit doctors, get regular checkups and take prescription medications. Some other factors that force health insurance companies to charge women more than men is maternity care and increased incidence of chronic conditions among women. Some women are even holding off on having children because their insurance policies do not cover maternity care.

Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, has it right: “The wide variation in premiums could not possibly be justified by actuarial principles. We should not tolerate women having to pay more for health insurance, just as we do not tolerate the practice of using race as a factor in setting rates.”

These disparities aren’t only evident in major insurance companies. Disparities have also been evident in state high risk pools, which offer coverage to people who cannot obtain private individual coverage. Most state insurance pools, for high-risk individuals, also use sex as a factor in setting rates. Some facts from the article state that “in Dallas or Houston, women ages 25 to 29 pay 39 percent more than men of the same age when they buy coverage from the Texas Health Insurance Risk Pool. 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.”

“Representative Xavier Becerra, Democrat of California, said that “if men could have kids,” such disparities would probably not exist.” I do not think it matters whether men can bear children or not. We live in the 21st century and it’s about time women are treated equally, especially when it comes to health insurance. Health care is a human right, every women in the country deserves it. And they deserve it at the same price as men.

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