City Attorney Dennis Herrera Acts to Prevent Sex Discrimination in Health Care

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed a lawsuit to prevent gender discrimination in health care premiums. 

Read about how the individual health care market fails women here. And read all about today’s suit below.

Dennis J., at it again:

Herrera Challenges Constitutionality of
Insurance ‘Gender Rating’ in California
Insurance Industry Practice of Charging Women Up to 39% More
for Health Care Coverage Called Discriminatory, Unconstitutional
SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 27, 2009) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed
suit to strike down provisions of state law that permit gender rating, a
practice by health insurers and health care service plans that can force
women to pay a significant premium or price differential based solely on
their gender. The 13-page pleading filed in San Francisco Superior Court
this morning alleges that such rating practices by health insurers deny
women their right to equal protection under the California Constitution,
and asks the court to declare the discriminatory laws void and enjoin state
officials from enforcing them.
Today’s lawsuit makes good on a Dec. 18 notice of intent Herrera sent to
California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., Insurance Commissioner
Steve Poizner and Department of Managed Health Care Director Lucinda Ehnes
informing them of the City’s plans to file the constitutional challenge.
On Jan. 14, State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation
to prohibit gender rating by health insurance companies in California,
which could, depending on the outcome, obviate Herrera’s legal challenge.
“Women who are priced out of private health coverage by insurance
companies’ discriminatory practices are often forced to rely on public
hospitals and clinics instead,” said Herrera. “So, gender rating isn’t
simply unfair to women — it’s unfair to all taxpayers who are forced to
subsidize health insurers’ discriminatory pricing schemes. I am grateful
to Sen. Leno for his leadership in pursuing a legislative fix that can
hopefully remove the need for the City’s lawsuit. But it is clear we need
to act now to end a practice that imposes an unfair and unconstitutional
burden on too many women in California.”
“During these difficult economic times, when more women are losing their
jobs, and employers are likely to cut their health care plans, we must
protect fair access to health care in the individual market,” said Sen.
Leno. The Senator’s bill, SB 54, to end gender rating in California, could
be heard in the State Senate as early as February.
Both Herrera’s litigation and Leno’s legislation apply only to individual
health care service plans and policies; employer-sponsored plans are
already prohibited from charging men different premiums than women in
California. A report by the National Women’s Law Center issued last
September found that 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.

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