Health Insurers' Strategy Divide and Conquer?

I received this in an email on May 8 but inadvertently did not post it. Now however it is more timely than ever in its message about why it is not a good move to trust health insurers.

I subscribe to the weekly Top Ten Headlines from the Women's Health Policy Report, which provides links to the daily articles attached to them.  Both the daily and weekly reports are published by the National Partnership for Women and Families.  In today's report there was a piece about Tuesday's Senate hearing on healthcare reform

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Health Insurers Offer To End Practice of Charging Women Higher Premiums for Individual Policies
[May 6, 2009]

Health insurers would be willing to end the practice of charging women higher premiums than men for individual insurance policies if the government agrees not to establish a public insurance plan, America's Health Insurance Plans President Karen Ignagni said Tuesday, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 5/6). Ignagni made the proposal at a Senate Finance Committee hearing that focused on ways to cover uninsured U.S. residents as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's health care system. President Obama and congressional Democrats support the creation of a government-run insurance program that would compete with private insurance plans.

This is concerning for several reasons.  First I was not aware of the practice of charging women more - and this can be from 25% to 50% more.

But I find this a somewhat cynical attempt to peel off constituencies supporting the public option by offering to make concessions conditional on dropping the public option.  Other offers so far include stopping the practice of refusing policies to the sick. (They haven't actually offered to pay for needed treatment.)

Since this is an e-mail article, I cannot link to it, so I am copying it in full.  You can get information about subscribing by e-mailing  Here is the rest of the article:

About 9% of U.S. residents, including about 5.7 million women, are insured through individual policies. Unlike employer-sponsored plans, premiums for individual insurance policies typically charge women higher premiums than men (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/5). Women in these plans can be charged 25% to 50% more than men for the same coverage, according to the Times. Insurers say the disparity results from women using more health care than men, especially during their childbearing years.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Tuesday introduced legislation (S. 969) that would prohibit insurers from considering gender when setting premium rates. Kerry said the premium disparity is "just plain wrong, and it has to change." Ignagni responded that she also believes that the practice "should be eliminated." AHIP's offer of ending the gender parity is the insurance industry's latest indication that it will be accepting of more federal regulation, the Times reports. In November 2008, insurers said they would accept all applicants, regardless of illness or disability, if Congress mandates coverage for all U.S. residents. Last month, the industry proposed to end the practice of charging higher premiums to sick people (New York Times, 5/6).

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 Thanks for posting it, cause, in ways, it reflects a strategy that the industries used to fight the Clinton health care agenda in the mid 90s.

Same game, differnt decade, many of the same players.

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson