Both City Litigation and State Legislation Target Discriminatory Pricing Scheme That Costs Women More for Health Coverage
SAN FRANCISCO (May 14, 2009) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today hailed the passage of bills in both state legislative chambers that would prohibit health insurers in California from engaging in gender rating, a practice Herrera challenged as unconstitutional in a lawsuit filed in January. Herrera’s office sponsored legislation introduced by State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), which passed the senate this morning on a 23-to-13 vote. A parallel bill by Assemblymember Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) was approved in the lower chamber on Monday. Both bills intend to bar health care service plans and insurance companies from charging a premium or price differential based on the insured person’s gender. They apply only to individual health care service plans and policies because California law already prohibits gender rating in employer-sponsored and group health plans. While minor differences between the assembly and senate bills remain to be ironed out, today’s passage represents a key step toward a legislative solution that would obviate Herrera’s pending legal challenge.
“Gender rating isn’t simply unfair to women, it’s unfair to taxpayers who are subsidizing health insurers’ discriminatory pricing schemes,” Herrera said. “When women are priced out of individual health coverage, we all pay a price because of increased demand on public hospitals and clinics. California law already prohibits discriminatory insurance pricing because of race, ethnicity, religion and marital status. It even prohibits gender-based pricing for group health plans. It’s time to put an end to gender rating for good. I applaud Sen. Leno’s very capable leadership for successfully advancing legislation that will hopefully remove the basis for the lawsuit by San Francisco. But it is clear we need to act now to end a practice that unconstitutionally burdens women in California.”
On Jan. 27, Herrera filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court to strike down provisions of state law that permit gender rating, alleging that the practice by health insurers denies women their right to equal protection under the California Constitution. The lawsuit, which is on hold depending on the outcome of Leno’s Senate Bill 54 and Jones’s Assembly Bill 119, asks the court to declare the discriminatory laws void and to enjoin state officials from enforcing them.