It’s called discrimination…

The scrutiny on the inefficient, iniquitous individual insurance market continues, with David Lazarus’ column in the Los Angeles Times.

We’ve explored before how women get discriminated against in the individual insurance market. They have to pay significant surcharges for maternity coverage. A recent NY Times story spotlighted how a C-section can be classified as a pre-existing condition that leads to higher premiums or a denial of coverage.

But now the California insurance marketplace had come full circle: Lazarus reports that three insurers: Aetna, Blue Cross, and now Blue Shield are charging men and women differently, and others are now looking to go there as well.

Where does it stop? As Lazarus says:

But 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?

This may be a standard insurance practice, but I think the public realizes that this is unacceptable social policy to have such discrimination, against women or any other group.

We should pass bills like AB1962(De La Torre) to require maternity as a basic benefit; institute guaranteed issue in the individual insurance market so that those with “pre-existing conditions” can get coverage; and fundamentally reform the health system to expand group coverage and shrink the individual market–where women and others are subject to discrimination, in multiple ways.

One last point: I keep reading that McCain is interested in appealling to women voters, but how can he explain to them his health plan, which would shift millions into the individual market, where they are likely to be discriminated against?

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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