David Lazarus at the LA Times had an excellent column last weekend about health insurers charging men and women different rates. When Blue Shield and other insurers admit they’re charging women higher premiums because they are higher “risks” (Read: more expensive), they’re coming clean about the industry’s already discriminatory practices against women. Though, in doing so, it further widens the gap between what women and men pay for health care. Women will wind up spending more, not only to *buy* care, but also to *use* care, as has been the case.
Since the steady increase of high-deductible health plans (and in the absence of stronger consumer protections such as community rating and minimum benefit standards) insurers have been permitted to passive aggressively charge women more based on the fact that women are trying to be conscientious about their health.
A Harvard Medical School study last year found women ages 18-64 with consumer-directed health policies wound up spending 218% more on health care than men. “High-deductible plans punish women for having breasts and uteruses and having babies,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, one of the authors of the study.
We require various gynecological exams. We need birth control pills (as a result of co-activities with men). Sometimes we have babies (as a result of said co-activities) — though high-deductible plans don’t cover maternity anyway. We go to the doctor when we hurt. We generally seek more preventive care than men. Hmmmm. And I thought I was just being responsible.
A world that allows high-deductible plans to proliferate — as envisioned by John McCain — is essentially a world that legitimizes deadbeat insurers, who want to thrust more and more costs onto women in the name of keeping prices low. But for whom?