Health reform bill gives women a boost

April 1, 2010

The healthcare reform bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives virtually outlaws sex discrimination in health insurance, benefitting women.

The recently passed healthcare reform bill virtually outlaws sex discrimination in health insurance, tipping the scales in favor of women, according to a news story in the March 30 edition of the New York Times.

In many states where individual health policies were purchased by people who were not covered through their employers, insurance companies legally were able to use a tactic known as “gender rating.” This meant that the same health coverage would cost more for women than for men, even in cases not involving maternity care. The justification was that women use the health system more than men do. Premium differences ranged from 4% to 48%, reported the 2008 National Women’s Law Center analysis.

Gender rating also affected group coverage plans; however, laws against sex discrimination kept employers from being able to tack on these costs to employees’ healthcare costs. Small and midsized businesses were negatively affected by the gender-rating issue, leading some to not offer health coverage or only use plans with high deductibles.

Additionally, maternity coverage must now be included as part of healthcare policies. Another benefit of the bill is the ban on denial of coverage to women who have had previous cesarean deliveries or who had been victims of domestic violence. Coverage was denied in some cases because of predicted higher expenses down the road.

Some of the updated rules in the bill will not go into effect until 2014; however, the ban on gender discrimination is active immediately.