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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Senate passes Sosnowski bill that would ban gender discrimination in health insurance premiums

Ensures protection for women if Republicans repeal Obamacare

The Senate passed legislation introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) that would ban health insurers from utilizing the discriminatory practice known as gender rating, or routinely charging women and men different premiums for individual insurance.

“Women face unconscionable disparities when buying health insurance in the individual market,” Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) said. 

“Women sometimes are charged 10 percent to 25 percent to 50 percent more than men for insurance providing identical coverage, especially during the age bracket associated with child-bearing years.”

This legislation (2017-S 0578) would prohibit insurance companies from varying the premium rates charged for a health coverage plan based on the gender of the individual policy holder, enrollee, subscriber, or member. 

When it comes to health insurance, women are considered a higher risk than men because they tend to visit the doctor more frequently, live longer, and have babies. The practice is similar to car insurance companies charging a higher premium to insure teenage drivers.

“While the Affordable Care Act effectively made gender rating illegal,” said Senator Sosnowski, “the stability of deferral health insurance law is tenuous at best, as we’ve seen. This legislation would block this reprehensible practice at the state level, where health insurance reform is more stable.”


Research from a 2012 National Women’s Law Center report entitled, “Turning to Fairness: Insurance Discrimination Against Women Today and the Affordable Care Act,” states that 92 percent of best-selling plans charge women more for health insurance coverage than men in states without laws banning gender rating. Only 3 percent of these plans cover maternity services.

It also states that the practice of gender rating costs women approximately $1 billion per year, based on an average of 2012 advertised premiums and the most recent data on the number of women in the individual health insurance market.

Excluding maternity coverage, the report further says that nearly one-third of plans examined charge 25- to 40-year-old women at least 30 percent more than men for the same coverage. In some cases, the difference is even greater.

The National Women’s Law Center is a research and advocacy group, which works to expand, protect and promote opportunity and advancement for women and girls. 

The measure now heads to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2017-H 5109) has been introduced by Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence).