Lifewatch: Women health insurance

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

ST. LOUIS, MO (WECT) - A troubling trend is making the hard economic times even harder for some.

Women are paying far more for individual health insurance coverage than men with "Gender Rating."

Gender rating can happen because there are no federal guidelines governing specific amounts health insurance companies can charge in the individual market.

More and more women are charged more, simply because of their gender.  In some cases, a woman can be denied insurance for being a victim of domestic violence.

Amanda Doyle of St. Louis, Missouri has health insurance covered by her employer.  She's lucky because she lives in a state where some women her age who have individual insurance can pay 140% more than men.

"If you're a woman looking for insurance, chances are you're considering having a baby.  Kids aren't just the responsibility of a woman so the cost shouldn't just be borne by a woman," said Amanda.

The National Women's Law Center, a advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., has released a report finding women who need individual health insurance may be facing a surtax, just when they need benefits the most.

"Women are being charged more simply because they're women," said Judy Waxman with the National Women's Law Center. "What we found is wildly variant and seemingly arbitrary differences in the premiums when you looked at what women had to pay as compared to men."

In fact, 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.

Health insurance industry spokesperson Susan Pisano says it's really all about risk.

"At younger ages women use more health care services and are prone to specific conditions and later in life men use more health care services and are more prone to certain conditions," said Pisano.

If you don't have health insurance, there are a number of resources for women.

Government-sponsored "safety-net" facilities provide medical care for those in need, even if you have no insurance or money.  These include: community health centers, public hospitals, and special needs facilities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded more than $19 million to expand and strengthen these facilities.

To find a facility near you, click here.