|Source:||News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, IL)|
Dec. 8–CHAMPAIGN — How much you pay for health insurance in Illinois can depend a lot on whether you visit the little boy’s room or the little girl’s room.And that gender-based premium rate disparity can exceed 100 percent, with middle-aged and younger guys getting substantially cheaper rates than women their same ages.The practice of charging women higher premium rates than men is called “gender rating,” and it’s illegal in 10 states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.Both House and Senate health care reform measures would outlaw the practice though not nearly soon enough to keep a local organization from staggering increases next year for its mostly female staff.Champaign County Health Care Consumers, a Champaign-based not-for-profit organization, picks up 100 percent of the cost of health premiums through PersonalCare Insurance of Illinois for its staff of five women and one man.PersonalCare rates for the organization’s staff overall will run 30 percent higher next year, but the increases for various age groups are being heaped on top of premiums that were already much higher for women than men, Champaign County Health Care Consumers Executive Director Claudia Lennhoff said.For example, the monthly premium for women ages 25-29 will run $280 more than the premium for men in the same age group a nearly 147 percent difference.The new PersonalCare rates are around 110 percent higher for women younger than 25 and those ages 30-34 than rates for men in the same age groups.”It’s really gender discrimination,” Lennhoff said. “It’s discrimination against women.” PersonalCare’s parent company, Coventry Health Care, did not respond to phone and e-mail inquiries from The News-Gazette.If you’re thinking gender rating doesn’t affect you because you’re in a large group plan in which women and men pay the same rates, think again, Lennhoff said. You may still be paying a higher group rate overall that has a lot more to do with how many women of certain ages there are in your group than how old and sick some of your group members are.Health Care Consumers plans to disclose its upcoming rate increases at a press conference set for this morning and will urge the public to let Illinois senators know they want a prohibition against gender rating in the final Senate reform bill.Lennhoff said Health Care Consumers has covered the entire cost of its employees’ health premiums because their salaries are low, but may have to begin asking employees to pick up part of the cost under the new rates.”They’re killing us with these prices,” she said. “They’re just killing us.” What’s more, Lennhoff said, gender rating only adds to the misery of increasingly unaffordable premium rates that are adding substantially to the number of uninsured Americans.The latest round of increases, she contends, are largely motivated by a greedy industry eager to reap as much profit as it can before it becomes reined in by law.”They’re just getting the last piece of flesh they can squeeze out of us,” she said.Urbana-based Health Alliance Medical Plans spokeswoman Jane Hayes said higher insurance rates for women simply reflect higher health care costs though that’s not the only factor impacting premium rates.”All rates for all types of insurance are based on expected costs and how those costs are spread across a population,” she said in an e-mailed response. “The fact that women represent higher expected health care costs is one of many factors used by our industry in setting premiums.”To see more of The News-Gazette, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.news-gazette.com.Copyright (c) 2009, The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Ill.Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.For reprints, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.