Herrera Urges Schwarzenegger to Sign Bill to End Health Insurance ‘Gender Rating’

State legislation targets unconstitutional pricing scheme that costs women up to 39% more for health coverage than men

SAN FRANCISCO (Sept. 3, 2009) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign into law state legislation to prohibit health insurers in California from charging a premium or price differential based on the insured person’s gender. The practice, known as “gender rating,” forces women who purchase individual health insurance to pay monthly premiums up to 39 percent higher than those paid by similarly situated men — even for health insurance that excludes maternity coverage. Herrera targeted the discriminatory pricing scheme in a lawsuit against the State of California in January, alleging that provisions of state law that allow insurers to engage in gender rating deny women their right to equal protection under the California Constitution. Herrera elected to hold his constitutional challenge in abeyance in order to work with State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) to pursue a legislative solution. The resultant legislation, AB 119, was co-sponsored by Herrera’s office and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It passed out of the State Senate on Tuesday, and was finally approved by the State Assembly earlier today.

“AB 119 will rid California’s health insurance laws of their open sex discrimination, help over a million Californians obtain affordable health care coverage, and assist overburdened public health systems,” Herrera wrote in a letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger this afternoon. “On behalf of the City and County of San Francisco, I ask for your signature.”

Herrera’s letter to Schwarzenegger additionally outlined the panoply of benefits AB 119 would achieve, eliminating unlawful gender discrimination in the pricing of millions of individual health insurance policies purchased in California each year; and furthering California’s policy of promoting preventive care to reduce health care costs and improve public health. Herrera also noted that both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and national representatives of the health insurance industry have expressed agreement that the practice of gender rating should be ended. Organizations that have joined Herrera and ACOG in supporting AB 119 include: Access/Women’s Health Rights Coalition; American Civil Liberties Union; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO; California Alliance for Retired Americans; California Commission on the Status of Women; California Communities United Institute; California Medical Association; California National Organization for Women; California Nurses Association; California School Employees Association; California Society for Clinical Social Work; City and County of San Francisco; City of West Hollywood; Congress of California Seniors; Health Access California; MomsRising.org; National Women’s Law Center; Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health. The constitutional challenge is City and County of San Francisco vs. Steve Poizner et al, San Francisco Superior Court Number 484410, filed Jan. 27, 2009. A copy of Herrera’s letter and additional information on AB 119 is available on the City Attorney’s Web site at https://www.sfcityattorney.org/