It used to be that insurance companies justified charging women more for health insurance because they could get pregnant and be more expensive, but then someone pointed out the business fallacy that many insurance plans didn't cover birth control, either, so they came up with insurance plans (like mine) that don't cover pre-natal care if you get preggers. Unfortunately, now they're charging more for those plans, too. Their excuse?
"Our egghead actuaries crunched the numbers based on all the data we have about healthcare," explained Tom Epstein, a Blue Shield spokesman. "This is what they found."
But once you exempt pregnancy, what do men and women do significantly different? Men die young more often, and women seek preventative care (which is supposed to lower the cost of health insurance in the long term). Naturally, that's a problem.
See, the thing about insurance is it is technically supposed to be about risk pools, not usage statistics. So, if you're a young single woman on birth control who goes to the doctor when you have a mild case of bronchitis instead of going to the emergency room if it becomes pleurisy (a real disease! my friend had it last year) or pneumonia, then you're supposed to be in better shape price-wise because you're being cost-efficient. But if insurance companies are pricing insurance based on if you use it — as has happened in other insurance fields, such as homeowner's insurance — then any usage, even if it's efficient in the long-term, will ratchet up your costs over time and discourage you from utilizing the very insurance you're paying for. Gotta love a market failure!
But what does this mean? According to Elizabeth Edwards, it means that if John McCain has his way and eliminates the tax preference for employers to provide health insurance in favor of an individual tax preference, we ladies will all be paying more for our health insurance than the men. Matthew Yglesias thinks that more and more plans will be designed for and marketed to men, if for no other reason then than 29 percent of women are dependent on someone else's insurance and only 13 percent of men are, while men are twice as likely to buy their own insurance even today. In fact, fully half of men are primary insurance holders, while only slight more than a third of women are — meaning even if they're less than half the population, they're the population for whom insurance plans will most likely be design and to whom those plans will most likely be marketed. And then they'll just charge us extra for all that stuff that guys aren't using, and because they can.
So even if you're not technically using it, just having that uterus will cost you extra, and I'm not just talking about cramps, either. While John McCain's "reforms" aren't going to do much for us single types, though, my analysis says the other President candidate's plans might actually help. Plus, I think we all know which guy is more likely to push for legislation making health insurance coverage gender neutral, and it's probably not the guy who called his wife a cunt.
Gender Can Cost You In Individual Health Insurance [LA Times]
Elizabeth Edwards On The Inequitable Individual Market [ThinkProgress]
Gender and Insurance [Matthew Yglesias]
Women and Health Insurance Coverage [Kaiser Family Foundation]
Health Insurance And the Single Girl [Glamocracy]