Discriminatory practice that cost women up to 39% more for health insurance premiums is ended; City Attorney’s lawsuit averted
SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 12, 2009) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today praised Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for signing into law state legislation that will prohibit health insurers in California from charging a premium or price differential based on the insured person’s gender. The practice, which is known as “gender rating,” has forced 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 originally targeted the discriminatory pricing scheme in January, when he filed suit against the State of California charging that statutory provisions allowing insurers to base premiums on gender denied women their right to equal protection under the California Constitution. But Herrera decided 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 fix. 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 Sept. 1, and was approved by the State Assembly two days later. It was among at least 230 bills Gov. Schwarzenegger signed on the brink of a legislative deadline late Sunday night.
“This law will end discriminatory treatment of women in the individual health insurance market, and help more than a million Californians obtain affordable coverage,” said Herrera. “It offers a much-needed assist to our already overburdened public health system, and, of course, it averts the need for our litigation challenging the practice of gender rating. I applaud Gov. Schwarzenegger’s decision to sign AB 119, and I thank Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblyman Dave Jones for their leadership in shepherding it through the legislature. I am also enormously grateful to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for joining with me to sponsor this important law.”
Organizations that 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 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.
Herrera’s constitutional challenge, which will be dismissed in the coming days, is City and County of San Francisco vs. Steve Poizner et al, San Francisco Superior Court Number 484410, filed Jan. 27, 2009. Additional information on the case and the City’s legislative effort is available on the City Attorney’s Web site at http://www.sfcityattorney.org/.