It’s Time To End Discrimination In Health Insurance

edwards_elizabeth.gifInsurance companies will seize on anything to increase insurance premiums, and gender is no exception. An article in today’s New York Times points out that insurance companies rate-up individual insurance policies for women, forcing us to pay much more than men for identical coverage.

Since the individual market offers a raw deal to those who actually use care, women — who use maternity care and are more likely to have certain chronic diseases — may have a harder time finding affordable coverage than their male counterparts. A 30-year-old woman pays “31 percent more than a man of the same age in Denver or Chicago” and in Iowa, “a 30-year-old woman pays $49 a month more than a man of the same age.”

But Senator John McCain refuses to end this discrimination. McCain’s plan would make it even easier for insurers to cherry-pick the healthiest individuals who use the least amount of care. When asked why he didn’t support leveling the playing field and preventing insurance companies from covering only the healthiest and cheapest Americans, McCain replied that insurance companies should be able to decide who they cover and what they charge:

Q: Why not level the playing field, prevent insurance companies from cherry picking and let them compete on a level playing field?

MCCAIN: Because then I think then we would be mandating what the free enterprise sytem does and that would be, obviously, something I would not approve of.

Watch the ad from Health Care For America Now!:

I have often argued that buying health insurance is not the same as purchasing a refrigerator or a microwave. Health insurance is not another consumer good for which everyone pays the same price. Sick people are more expensive to insure than healthy people, the old accrue more cost than the young. For this reason, Senator John McCain’s belief in the dysfunctional and discriminatory individual market is fundamentally at odds with the point of health insurance, which requires that we share risks and pool costs.

Insurance companies should not be allowed to use a woman’s ability to become pregnant as an excuse to charge women more for health insurance. Unfortunately, by deregulating the individual market, Senator McCain would give insurance companies a free pass to continue charging women more for their health care.