Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Calls For Gender Equity In Health Care Coverage

February 10, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today called for legislation that would prohibit health insurers from using gender as a criterion for determining the rates that it charges consumers for individual health insurance.

Blumenthal -- joined by Teresa C. Younger, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women -- testified before the Insurance and Real Estate Committee on An Act Prohibiting Gender Discrimination for Individual Health Insurance Policies.

Women under age 40 pay between 6 and 48 percent more in individual health insurance costs than men, according to a recent study by the National Women's Law Center.

"Discrimination should never be tolerated -- particularly in our health care system," Blumenthal said. "The dubious divide in health care puts women at an unconscionable advantage, sometimes jeopardizing access to life-dependent health coverage.

"Despite arguments that insurance claims experience for certain minorities and religious groups may justify higher rates, we would never accept an insurance rate system that discriminates on racial or religious grounds. Nor should we accept discriminatory rates for women."

Younger said, "This bill is an important step toward gender equity in the healthcare system. Women bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to paying for basic medical care. During our prime working years, we pay higher premiums than men do for the same coverage and often can't find coverage for maternity care. There are even cases where insurers will deny a woman coverage if she is a survivor of domestic abuse.

"All of this puts women at risk for poor or no coverage, and it has catastrophic effects on long-term asset-building. Women are far more likely to file bankruptcy as a result of medical debt.

"We strongly urge the legislature to pass this bill. Not only is it critical for the women of Connecticut, it would set an important precedent nationally: as the Obama administration tackles the thorny issue of universal healthcare, the inequity in women's health must be addressed as a top priority."

Twelve states prohibit or limit the use of gender as a criterion for setting individual health insurance rates, including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Washington, Oregon and New Mexico.