As we mark Women’s Day of Action for Health Reform, we must remember that while individuals of both genders will benefit from health care reform, there are a few essential changes needed to provide women with appropriate healthcare:.
- An End to Gender Rating – In the individual insurance market, many states allow insurance companies to calculate premiums based on characteristics such as existing health problems, age, and gender. In particular, women are often charged higher premiums than men during their reproductive years. For example, holding other factors constant, a 22-year-old woman can be charged one and a half times the premium rate of a 22-year-old man.
- An End to Discrimination Based on “Pre-Existing Conditions” – A pre-existing condition can be any medical condition that existed before an individual applies for a new health insurance policy. In 45 states, it is legal for insurance companies to discriminate against people purchasing health insurance based on pre-existing conditions (which can include hay fever and asthma). Some insurance companies even consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition and will not provide coverage for a woman who is pregnant. In eight states, being a survivor of domestic violence is considered a pre-existing condition.
- An End to Coverage Excluding Services Used Only By Women – A recent survey by the National Women’s Law Center found that the vast majority of individual market health insurance policies did not cover maternity care. In 2009, only 13 percent of the health plans available to a 30-year-old woman across the country provide maternity coverage. One insurance company even told Peggy Robertson after she had a doctor-ordered C-section that she would have to get sterilized in order to keep her coverage.