A story from the New York Times today indicates that women who purchase individual health insurance policies pay more than men who do the same.
More and more people are shopping for individual health insurance policies because they have lost jobs that provided coverage. Politicians of both parties have offered proposals that would expand the role of the individual market, giving people tax credits or other assistance to buy coverage on their own.
“Women often fare worse than men in the individual insurance market,” said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee.
Insurers say they have a sound reason for charging different premiums: Women ages 19 to 55 tend to cost more than men because they typically use more health care, especially in the childbearing years.
The article goes on to show that even taking childbearing into account, women still pay more, but I find this whole line of argument, and all its derivatives, offensive. The whole point of insurance is to spread the costs of health care over a large population, insuring heavy users against heavy costs. And yet, the health insurance industry gets away with defining the population however it wants. Small workplace? Well, we’re only spreading costs across your workers. Elderly person? You have to pay more. Pre-existing condition? Too costly for us. At a certain point, the insurance part of insurance just disappears, and all you have is a payment plan for health care.