June 13, 2021

Whip Kazarian’s bill that would ban gender discrimination in health insurance premiums passes the House

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State House – House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian’s (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) legislation (2021-H 5763) that would ban health insurers from utilizing the discriminatory practice known as gender rating, or routinely charging women and men different premiums for individual insurance, passed the House of Representatives tonight.

“The discrimination that women have faced when it comes to the costs of health insurance has existed for far too long and needs to end. If we truly value the positive impacts of regular healthcare, there is no reason women should be discriminated against and forced to pay much-higher rates for their medical care. This bill will eliminate this gross injustice and finally bring women in our state the healthcare equality that they rightfully deserve,” said Whip Kazarian.

This bill would prohibit insurance companies from varying the premium rates charged for a health coverage plan based on the gender of the individual policy holder, enrollee, subscriber, or member. The bill will codify into Rhode Island law a practice that has already been instituted federally within the Affordable Care Act.

When it comes to health insurance, women are considered a higher risk than men because they tend to visit the doctor more frequently, live longer, and have babies. The practice is similar to what minorities faced in this country, with race being used to justify higher healthcare costs, until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Research from a 2012 National Women’s Law Center report entitled, “Turning to Fairness: Insurance Discrimination Against Women Today and the Affordable Care Act,” states that 92 percent of best-selling plans charge women more for health insurance coverage than men in states without laws banning gender rating. Only 3 percent of these plans cover maternity services. It also states that the practice of gender rating costs women approximately $1 billion per year, based on an average of 2012 advertised premiums and the most recent data on the number of women in the individual health insurance market. Excluding maternity coverage, the report further says that nearly one-third of plans examined charge 25- to 40-year-old women at least 30 percent more than men for the same coverage. In some cases, the difference is even greater.

The National Women’s Law Center is a research and advocacy group, which works to expand, protect and promote opportunity and advancement for women and girls.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration where Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) has introduced similar legislation (2021-S 0003).

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