Allison Jones on Gender Discrimination in Health Care
My name is Allison Jones, and I work for Champaign County Health Care Consumers, a local non-profit, health care advocacy organization. Although I work for health care justice every day through my job, I am a victim of gender discrimination by my health insurance company. Through my position at CCHCC, I am provided with health insurance coverage through Personal Care, one of the main insurers in our county. Over the last three years, the cost of monthly premiums has increased for all staff approximately 30% annually. These sorts of rate hikes drastically hurt small businesses and non-profit organizations struggling in a tough economy. But if the rate hikes alone weren't enough, Personal Care also charges drastically higher rates for female employees versus male employees - a process called "gender rating" in the insurance world. Gender rating is simply a fancy term for discrimination based on gender.
I am a 26 year old healthy female who doesn't smoke and exercises regularly. Each month, CCHCC pays $470.91 for my health insurance. A male in my age group, however, is charged only $190.75 - a nearly 150% difference. In fact, in our plan, any man younger than 50 years old is charged less in premiums than any woman over 25 years old. CCHCC is a small organization, with a staff of only six, five of whom are female. If CCHCC could pay the male premium rates for all it's employees, the organization would save nearly $12,000 this year alone.
Unfortunately in Illinois, there are no laws protecting women against the use of gender rating as a factor in the small group or individual insurance markets. Thankfully, the practice of gender discrimination will be outlawed thanks to the new health reform law passed by Congress. In 2014, health insurance companies will no longer be able to base premiums on gender, and for that, I'm extremely thankful.
If you would like to learn more about the new national health care reform law and what it means for you, please join me at the Community Meeting on Health Reform on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 6:00pm at the Champaign Public Library. At the meeting we will discuss different health reform provisions, when they take effect, local resources and programs, and the need for continued advocacy. If you have any questions or would like to attend the meeting, call CCHCC at (217) 352-6533 or visit us on the web at www.healthcareconsumers.org.