Herrera Hopes Leno Bill to End ‘Gender Rating’ Averts Pending Legal Challenge

City Attorney Sponsors Bill to End Insurance Industry Practice That Charges Women Up to 39% More for Health Care Coverage

SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 14, 2009)-City Attorney Dennis Herrera today hailed the introduction of legislation by State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would prohibit health insurance companies in California from engaging in gender rating, a practice Herrera challenged as a violation of the state constitution last month. The bill introduced by Sen. Leno intends to bar health care service plans and health insurers from charging a premium or price differential based on the gender of an insured person. Because employer-sponsored and group health plans are already prohibited from charging men different premiums than women, Leno’s bill would apply only to individual health care service plans and policies.

On Dec. 18, Herrera sent a formal notice to California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and Department of Managed Health Care Director Lucinda Ehmes informing them of his intent to file suit to invalidate existing statutes that authorize the practice of gender rating. The notice of intent was accompanied by a draft complaint alleging that provisions in state law that permit health insurers to discriminate on the basis of sex deny women their right to equal protection under the California Constitution. Herrera’s pending suit also petitions the court to enjoin the state from enforcing the discriminatory laws, and for fees and costs associated with the City’s action.

“Gender rating doesn’t simply discriminate against women, it forces all taxpayers to subsidize it,” said Herrera. “The fact is, women who are priced out of private health coverage by insurance companies’ discriminatory practices are often forced to rely on public hospitals and clinics. Gender rating is unfair and unconstitutional, and I applaud State Sen. Leno for his leadership in pursuing a legislative fix that will hopefully enable us to avoid litigation to strike down these clearly discriminatory statutes. I am pleased to serve as a sponsor of his bill to achieve that purpose.”

According to a report by the National Women’s Law Center issued last September, California women under the age of 55 pay up to 39 percent more for insurance than men. The study looked at insurance coverage for women at ages 25, 40 and 55.