American's health insurance companies are so scared that the (inefficient, bureaucracy-ridden) government will be able to create a health insurance program that actually, you know, covers people that they're now offering to treat women equitably.
You'll recall, no doubt, that even when you take out the cost of pregnancy care, women pay more for health insurance in states that don't prohibit insurers from charging more. Insurers say that this is because women are more likely to engage in preventative care.
In interviews last fall, insurance executives said they had a sound reason for the different premiums: Women ages 19 to 55 tend to cost more than men of the same age because they typically use more health care, especially in the childbearing years. Moreover, insurers said women were more likely to visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take prescription medications and to have certain chronic illnesses.
Of course, if health insurance companies were operating on a long-term framework with regards to their customers the same way that their customers are operating in regards to their own health, it wouldn't be an issue, since preventative care is less expensive than emergent or traumatic care. However, given that insurance companies are most often motivated by short-term profits and shareholder value rather that the health and safety of their customers and because — particularly in this economy and given insurers' right to terminate our coverage for having the audacity to utilize it — they don't expect to be your health insurance company by the time preventative care pays dividends, they charge women more than men.
Anyway, the reason they're now willing to even contemplate equitable coverage costs for women is that part of Barack Obama's health care reform package calls for the establishment of a government-run health insurance program for middle- and lower-income Americans priced out of the private health insurance market to — in Obama's words — "keep private industry honest." Insurers have already agreed to stop terminating coverage when people use it and to insure even Americans with pre-existing conditions if Obama makes everyone either buy health insurance or get into Medicaid and Medicare — but they really, really don't want you to have the option to buy into government health insurance intended to compete with private plans because they don't want the competition. They'll even "accept" more regulation. Just try to trust that they won't fuck you over!
"We are not asking people to trust us, we are asking people to trust government," Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, told a Senate panel that is crafting sweeping legislation to overhaul the nation's $2.5 trillion health care system.
Yeah, that's big business which, by and large funds Republican candidates and causes, telling Americans to trust the government. Go ahead. You can laugh now. That government health insurance idea is starting to sound more and more like a good idea.
Health Insurers Agree to End Higher Premiums for Women [NY Times]
Health Insurers Ask Gov't To Police Their Industry [Associated Press]