The New York Times
By ROBERT PEAR
Published: March 19, 2012
WASHINGTON — Women still pay more than men for the same health insurance coverage, according to new research and data from online brokers.
The new health care law will prohibit such “gender rating,” starting in 2014. But gaps persist in most states, with no evidence that insurers have taken steps to reduce them.
For a popular Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in Chicago, a 30-year-old woman pays $375 a month, which is 31 percent more than what a man of the same age pays for the same coverage, according to eHealthInsurance.com, a leading online source of health insurance.
In a report to be issued this week, the National Women’s Law Center, a research and advocacy group, says that in states that have not banned gender rating, more than 90 percent of the best-selling health plans charge women more than men.
Mary Beth Senkewicz, deputy insurance commissioner in Florida from 2007 to 2011, said the findings were consistent with her observations.
“The gender gap continues,” Ms. Senkewicz said. If insurers voluntarily began to narrow the gap, she said, they could reduce the impact that will occur in 2014 when rates are expected to increase for many men under the age of 55.
On the other hand, Ms. Senkewicz said: “This is a business decision. Insurers may not want to raise rates for men because they might lose some customers.”
Alissa Fox, a senior vice president of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, said the group had not opposed the ban on using gender as a factor in setting health insurance rates. But, she said, insurers have “major concerns” about limits on their ability to vary rates according to the ages of subscribers.
Kristin E. Binns, a spokeswoman for WellPoint, one large insurer, said that “rates quoted today still incorporate gender and age rating” except in states where the practice is forbidden by law. Fourteen states, including California, New Jersey and New York, have taken steps to ban or limit gender rating in the individual insurance market.