With the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled to hear arguments next week on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has released a report showing that women “continue to face unfair and discriminatory practices when obtaining health insurance in the individual market—as well as in the group health insurance market” which costs them more than $1 billion a year.
Among other things, the report, “Turning to Fairness: Insurance discrimination against women today and the Affordable Care Act,” found that:
- The practice of gender rating—or generally charging women more for the same coverage—costs women in the individual health insurance market approximately $1 billion a year, based on average current advertised premiums and the most recent data on the number of women in the individual market.
- In states that have not banned gender rating, 92 percent of best-selling plans charge women more than men, even though the vast majority of these plans do not cover maternity services.
- In most states, it is common for a female non-smoker to be charged more than a male smoker simply because she is a woman. Fifty-six percent of best-selling plans charge a 40-year-old woman who does not smoke more than a 40-year-old man who does smoke.
- In states where maternity coverage is not mandated (all but nine states), only six percent of health plans available to a 30-year-old woman provide such coverage. And in 25 states, there is no insurance plan available on the individual market that covers maternity services.
- Huge and arbitrary variations exist in each state and across the country in the difference in premiums charged to women and men—even with maternity coverage excluded.
The report is part of an effort by NWLC to educate women about the importance of the Affordable Care Act through a campaign called “I Will Not Be Denied.”
“It’s important that women learn how the law corrects insurance discrimination, which costs them hard-earned dollars, and how it is already working for them in many other ways,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. “Thanks to the (Affordable Care Act), many basic preventive services are now available without a co-pay or deductible, including mammograms, colonoscopies, and Pap tests, and over 20 million women have received at least one such preventive service without paying out of pocket.”
“The law now allows parents to keep their young adult children up to age 26 on their insurance policies, which has already helped 2.5 million young adults gain health coverage. And parents with sick children have peace of mind knowing that insurers can no longer deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions,” Greenberger added.
NWLC, a member of The Leadership Conference coalition, has submitted a brief to the Supreme Court in support of the ACA’s minimum coverage provisions. The Leadership Conference supports the Affordable Care Act and has signed on to two briefs (here, here) to the Supreme Court asserting that the ACA is constitutional and necessary to address wide disparities in the health care system that affect children, people of color, women, seniors, and people with disabilities.