Throughout the fact-finding process, a million little things — from weight to social activities — can cause your client to qualify for a higher health insurance premium or be denied coverage altogether. But for nearly half the residents in 40 of the nation’s states, checking one small box can increase your client’s rates by as much as 48 percent.
The practice of gender rating — charging different premiums to clients based on whether they’re male or female — has been around for almost as long as the insurance industry, but until recently, it was generally considered fair practice in the individual market. (It has been prohibited in the employee benefits market since 1964.) After all, women typically need more health care than men because of the demands of pregnancy and family planning; according to a recent New York Times article, the typical American woman who wants to have two children will spend about five years trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, or recovering from pregnancy, and about 30 years trying to avoid unintentional pregnancies. In addition, once women surpass child-bearing age, it’s men who tend to have higher premiums on their insurance, so gender rating doesn’t only affect women.
Still, the practice of gender rating doesn’t sit right with many people, and that’s why it’s outlawed in 11 states, and heavily restricted in two others. In early 2009, Sen. John Kerry proposed a national bill that would do the same thing. But since his bill was read and sent to committee in early May, no further action has been taken on the national level. California, however, spent the greater part of the year wrapped up in a legal battle over the issue, which ended when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill banning the practice into law over the weekend of Oct. 10, 2009.