Study Finds Women Pay More for Health Insurance - but is it discrimination?
In an effort to create more affordable health insurance, and to help reduce the growing number of those Americans without access to adequate medical coverage, many insurance companies and States have introduced low cast high deductible insurance plans. The idea behind such plans is that premiums are kept low, by having high deductible amounts on the policies. The affordable health plans are often coupled with a Health Saving Account that can help pay for the out of pocket expenses with pre tax dollars before the deductible is reached. But a recent study suggests that the High Deductible Health Insurance Plans are discriminatory to woman, because they cost them more.
The study conducted by the Harvard Medical School claims the High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP’s) that are the cornerstone of Massachusetts’s new, mandated health insurance reform, discriminate against woman. “High-deductible plans punish women for having breasts and uteruses and having babies," Says Steffie Wollhander, one of the lead authors of the study.
However insurance professionals dispute this claim. They argue there is nothing intrinsically discriminatory about the High Deductible Health Plans. Women pay more because of the nature of the health insurance and healthcare system. The costs of health insurance in this country are based on risk. Women pay more because they are a greater actuarial risk, just as smokers, and obese persons pay more because of the higher risk they present. Women have always paid more for health insurance, whether that is a high deductible plan or not. The study found that in the typical HDHP’s the median cost for men under 45 was $500.00, for women it was $1200.00.
Women’s costs are higher because in general women require more medical expenses than their male counterparts. Woman will have to pay out of pocket expenses for breast cancer screenings, Pap tests, the new cervical cancer vaccine, birth control and pregnancy-related services that men do not. So on the one hand that means they will have to pay more out of pocket expenses in one of these consumer driven health plans, but on the other hand that also means the will reach the level where the health benefits kick in that much sooner than most males with a similar plan.
President Bush has been a champion of consumer driven health plans and believes they are a path toward controlling the high costs of healthcare in America. The idea is that patients will be more responsible with their healthcare dollars and take better care of themselves, if they are required to pay the first few thousand dollars of their own annual medical bills, however fewer than 3% of the population have embraced the plans.