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Concerns about U.S. Postal Service delays and voter intimidation from voting rights advocates. Plus, Joe Biden calls for emergency housing legislation.

Study: Insurance Companies Treat FL Women Like a Pre-Existing Condition

October 23, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. - Simply being female or the victim of a crime can cause a Florida woman to lose her health insurance coverage, either through denial of enrollment or increased premium prices. A new study from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), comparing insurance premium prices for similar coverage for women and men in every state, finds health insurers often treat being female like a pre-existing condition. Survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence are likely to be denied individual market coverage for several years after the crime, according to the report, unless a state law prohibits the discrimination, known as "gender rating."

Tampa, Fla. resident Chrissy Turner could no longer get coverage after she became a victim of rape, even though she was working in the health insurance industry.

"This is the last thing a rape victim should be worried about. I have been part of the health insurance industry for 27 years, but it didn't matter. They wanted to shove me under the rug. They wanted me to be quiet."

Turner now counsels other rape survivors about how to keep their health coverage. Marcia Greenberger, NWLC co-president, says it's time for nationwide standards in health care reform to stop the practice of charging women more for the same coverage.

"The discrimination is so pronounced. Some women are charged up to a stunning 84 percent more than men for individual health plans that exclude maternity coverage."

While insurers claim rates are based on a risk rationale, Greenberger disagrees.

"In most states, in the individual insurance market, women who do not smoke are often charged more than men who do smoke, simply because they are women."

NWLC claims gender-based pricing discrimination also occurs in the group insurance market, affecting businesses that offer workplace coverage. The research found pricing disparity against men as well, with some companies charging males more than females once they reach age 55.

The report calls for an end to rape and domestic violence insurance discrimination nationwide as part of health care reform. Insurance companies say pricing and policy approval based on risks related to gender, age and other life events are legitimate and not discriminatory.

The full report is available at Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL