The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), an advocacy group for women, is filing federal sex discrimination complaints against four of the largest American insurance companies for discriminating against women in their long-term care insurance plans. NWLC contends the companies’ plans to charge women more for the policies violates Obamacare protections barring sex discrimination in insurance plans.
The long-term care industry has long maintained that Obamacare’s rules barring insurers from charging women more for their health care don’t apply to them. Early last year, the nation’s largest long-term care insurer announced that it be charging women between 20 and 40 percent more in monthly premiums.
Industry experts predicted the practice would become a trend — a prediction that has proven true. NWLC’s complaints are targeting Genworth Financial, John Hancock, Transamerica, and Mutual of Omaha.
“By gender rating their long-term care insurance policies, these companies are charging women 20 to 40 percent more than men for the same product,” said NWLC Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger in a statement. “Requiring women to pay higher prices just because they are women is wrong, unfair and, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, is now illegal sex discrimination.”
Just under six in ten of the eight million Americans with long-term care policies are women. Since women tend to live longer than men, they often become their husbands’ long-term caregivers. That reduces the need for men to have a long-term care insurance; unfortunately, women are far less likely to have such a caregiver since their male spouses die earlier, leaving them dependent on insurance coverage for their long-term care needs. That’s why they tend to use a greater bulk of services and why insurers feel they are justified in discriminating against them.
But as NWLC points out, this form of discrimination only exacerbates the financial strains of the lifetime of wage discrimination that most women experience. “Women already have a hard enough time making ends meet, earning only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men,” said NWLC Vice-President and General Counsel Emily Martin. “With lower wages to begin with, women simply can’t afford to pay 20 to 40 percent more than men for the same long-term care insurance.”