Men, women and health insurance -- what’s fair?


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When it comes to health coverage, fairness depends on whom you ask and, perhaps, which groups are singled out.

Insurers say charging women more because of their gender is perfectly fine, thank you very much. Consumer advocates suggest we might want to think about this issue a bit further, asking just where (whether) we eventually will draw the line.


Writes Robert Pear in today’s New York Times:

‘Striking new evidence has emerged of a widespread gap in the cost of health insurance, as women pay much more than men of the same age for individual insurance policies providing identical coverage, according to new data from insurance companies and online brokers.’

The story goes on to explain that women use more healthcare services, but that even insurance executives were a bit taken aback at the size of the difference between men’s and women’s costs, which can amount to hundreds of dollars a year.

Here’s what L.A. Times’ columnist David Lazarus had to say back in June:

‘Parsing rates according to gender is a relatively new phenomenon. If women are more expensive than men to insure, and middle-aged women are significantly more expensive than middle-aged men, what about, say, older women with red hair? After all, they have fairer skin and thus are more susceptible to skin cancer. How about if, statistically speaking, blacks are more expensive to insure than whites? Or Christians more expensive to cover than kosher-observing Jews? How far will insurers go in determining risks?’

More people may begin asking this question.

-- Tami Dennis