Fox News misleadingly claimed that the government is “sticking it to men” because some men's insurance premiums will rise under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But Fox's attack obscures the health insurance market's existing discrimination against women and the fact that the ACA bans the widespread practice of gender rating, which charges women more than men for insurance coverage.
Fox Claims Health Care Reform Is An Attack On Men
Fox Host Elisabeth Hasselbeck: ACA Is “Sticking It To Men.” Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said the Affordable Care Act is “hitting the men” and “sticking it to men,” highlighting a premium estimate showing women currently paying higher insurance premiums than men then complaining that men's premiums will increase. The segment included the following graphic:
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/24/13]
Fox Attack Obscures Fact That Women Are Already Discriminated Against In The Individual Health Insurance Market
National Women's Law Center: “Women Are Routinely Charged More For Coverage Than Men.” The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) defines “gender rating” as “the practice of charging women different premiums than men,” and has found that women face significant price discrimination in the health insurance market:
In particular, women are routinely charged more for coverage than men while maternity coverage is generally excluded from individual market plans. This new report demonstrates that little progress has been made since the Center first documented the problem. The overarching conclusion is that the outright discrimination and barriers based on sex largely remain in place and there is no sign that insurance companies have, on their own, taken steps to eliminate the inequities. [National Women's Law Center, March 2012]
NY Times: “Women Still Pay More Than Men For The Same Health Insurance Coverage.” In an article titled “Gender Gap Persists in Cost of Health Insurance,” The New York Times reported:
Women still pay more than men for the same health insurance coverage, according to new research and data from online brokers.
The new health care law will prohibit such “gender rating,” starting in 2014. But gaps persist in most states, with no evidence that insurers have taken steps to reduce them. [The New York Times, 3/19/12]
NWLC: Gender Rating Is “Rampant,” Costing Women An Extra $1 Billion Per Year. According to the NWLC, gender rating is “rampant” in the individual health insurance market and costs women approximately $1 billion per year:
In states that have not banned the practice, the vast majority, 92%, of best-selling plans gender rate, for example, charging 40-year-old women more than 40-year-old men for coverage. Only 3% of these plans cover maternity services.
Based on an average of currently advertised premiums and the most recent data on the number of women in the individual health insurance market, the practice of gender rating costs women approximately $1 billion a year. [National Women's Law Center, March 2012]
NWLC: “Women Are Charged More For Health Coverage Simply Because They Are Women.” NWLC research failed to identify a reason for the health coverage cost discrepancy for women, concluding that the difference is simply a result of gender bias:
We did the research and the fact is that women are charged more for health coverage simply because they are women.
Furthermore, our research shows a wide variation in the differences women are charged both within and across states--even with maternity care excluded. For example, one plan examined in Arkansas charges 25-year-old women 81% more than men for coverage while a similar plan in the same state only charges women 10% more for coverage than men. Neither plan covers maternity care. It's hard to justify or explain that variation. [National Women's Law Center, 8/27/13]
And The Affordable Care Act Bans All Gender Discrimination
HHS: Affordable Care Act Prohibits Gender Discrimination. A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule concerning the ACA prohibits health insurance companies from charging women more than men for insurance beginning in 2014:
Beginning in 2014, health insurance issuers will be prohibited from denying coverage to any American because of a pre-existing condition, and from charging individuals and small employers higher premiums based on health status or gender. [Federal Register, 2/27/13]
HHS: Insurance Companies Can No Longer Deny Coverage To Women. From a fact sheet on the Affordable Care Act from HHS:
Insurance Companies Can't Deny Coverage to Women. Before the Affordable Care Act became law, most insurance companies selling individual policies could deny coverage to women or charge them more due to pre-existing conditions, such as cancer and having been pregnant. Under the law, insurance companies are already banned from denying coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition. In 2014, it will be illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against anyone with a pre-existing condition.
Women Pay Lower Health Care Costs. Before the law, women could be charged more for individual insurance policies simply because of their gender. For example, a 22-year-old woman could be charged 150% the premium that a 22-year-old man paid. In 2014, insurers will no longer be able to charge women higher premiums than they charge men. The law takes strong action to control health care costs, including helping states crack down on excessive premium increases and making sure most of your premium dollars go for your health care. [Department of Health and Human Services, 5/10/13]