Two days after new data from insurance companies and online brokers suggested that women buying health insurance in the individual market pay more for coverage, Sarah Palin argued that Sen. McCain’s plan to push more Americans into the individual heath insurance market would benefit women:
Of course we want and deserve equal pay for equal work. But we also want to be able to afford good health care for our families. John McCain’s plan for the $5,000 tax credit will allow us to make our own decisions, to be able to afford health care, to erase these state lines that prohibit a competitive environment to purchase a good health-care package. . . . That’s an issue that is important to women.”
Palin’s pro-market rhetoric obscures the consequences of exposing health care to a “competitive environment.” In fact, despite Palin’s pro-choice assertions, allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines would eliminate existing consumer protections and increase the costs of insurance.
Insurance companies are already charging women more than men for identical coverage. As the New York Times reported last week, “women pay much more than men of the same age for individual insurance policies providing identical coverage.” 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.”
Women pay more because they are more likely to have certain chronic diseases and are expected — as people who bare children — to need more care.
McCain’s plan would give insurance companies even more incentive to discriminate against women. Under his proposal, in order to attract the healthiest risk pool and maximize profits, insurance companies would market bare-bones policies from states that don’t require insurers to finance maternity care or cervical cancer screenings. But an exodus of non-insurance users into bare-bones policies would further fragment the health insurance pool, divide those who don’t use insurance from those who do and force women who require pregnancy check-ups or other health care services to pay more for identical coverage.
The only “choice” McCain’s health care plan would provide women, is the “choice” of paying more for health care. And that’s certainly “an issue that is important to women.”