Being either gender is a pre-existing condition, literally, but who knew being female is a pre-existing condition for purposes of qualifying for health insurance. Or not qualifying, or being charged higher premiums. Some things collected during the past week:
From a 2008 study by the National Women’s Law Center, analyzing more than 3,500 plans:
* Women are regularly denied coverage due to a prior pregnancy or C-section.
* In eight states and the District of Columbia, insurers may deny health insurance to women who are survivors of domestic violence.
* Women are charged as much as 48% more than men for health insurance.
* 60% of the plans studied did not cover maternity care.
* Predominately female businesses are charged higher premiums for their group plans because of the gender of their employees.
From conversations while out and about:
* Early 30s single woman changed jobs to one that does not offer health insurance. Despite working with an experienced broker, the only coverage she can obtain carries a high deductible, with no preventive care benefits. It isn’t certain she can even get this. Her problem: A serious case of hives for which she sought medical care, including (at the advice of her physician) a consult with a specialist. The specialist cleared her of any physical cause of the hives; instead, stress was the culprit. The hives disappeared after changing jobs. However, because she sought treatment, including obtaining a clean bill of health from the specialist, no decent insurance coverage for her.
* Late 20s single women who runs not only runs marathons but wins them in her age group. Had a knee problem for which she sought attention. Some added stretches cleared up the problem; she continues to run, now without pain. This person withstood intrusive interrogation about other health issues. None. She, too, is being denied individual health insurance because of the knee. She can’t even get coverage that carves out anything to do with her knee (which seems ridiculous under the circumstances).
* For people lucky enough to have health insurance, it is open enrollment season. Benefits are changing. Co-pays that once were fixed payments of, say, $10 or $20, may now be percentages of who knows what costs. Read an account of one person’s experience reviewing the options, from the New York Times.
* California has new legislation that bans gender rating. It remains to be seen whether rates will moderate, or rates for men will increase to the level charged for women.
Keep talking up healthcare reform, including the public option, in particular with friends and family in other states. Universal health care is a right. A recovering economy will need healthy workers. LLII.
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