It’s hard to imagine that in the year 2013 women still have to deal with inequality in the workplace.
Their wages are typically lower for the same level of education and expertise than their male counterparts, but this inequality does not stop at the pay check. Women also pay much higher premiums for their health insurance coverage, so, in addition to making less money, they’re forced to pay out more in insurance premiums.
This is a practice known in the insurance business as gender rating.
While the Affordable Health Care Act will eventually make gender rating illegal, some 14 states across the country including California, New Jersey and New York, have taken steps to ban or cap gender rating in the individual insurance market. Some local lawmakers would like to add The Biggest Little to that list.
A bill (S201) sponsored by Senators Sosnowski, Miller , Nesselbush, Cool-Rumsey, and Gallo would prohibit insurance providers in Rhode Island from charging women of child-bearing age higher premiums than men. This is the third time that similar legislation has been introduced by Sosnowski.
Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island is one of the womens’ advocacy groups that has led the charge locally for evening out this disparity. We caught up with Paula Hodges, Rhode Island Public Policy and Advocacy Director for Planned Parenthood, and asked for her take on the the built in sexism of gender rating by insurance companies.
The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services heard testimony from the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Susan Sosnowski, who said, “It’s outrageous that in 2013, we have to deal with this discrimination.”
“I bristle at the term discrimination,” said Shawn Donahue, lobbyist for Blue Cross/Blue Shield RI, “it is an actuarial fact that young women visit doctors more frequently. Insurance companies charge discriminatory rates for smokers. Men are discriminated against when it comes to life insurance.”
Committee Chairman Sen. Josh Miller grilled Donahue during his testimony, asking, “Just from a public policy point of view, do you have any data on the cost to the state for women that have dropped out of the insurance pool due to cost.”
Donahue had no answer.
During her testimony, Ms. Hodges, visibly annoyed, said, “I resent that gender is being equated to something situational like riding a motorcycle or smoking.”