WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 -- The National Women's Law Center issued the following news release:
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) today released final rules aimed at ending the health insurance practice of charging women higher premiums than men and denying coverage to individuals with so-called "pre-existing conditions." The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) cheers this important step forward for women's health.
In a 2012 report, NWLC found the practice of gender rating, or generally charging women more for the same coverage, cost women in the individual health insurance market approximately $1 billion a year. Only 14 states currently ban this practice; in those that don't, 92 percent of best-selling plans charge women more than men, even though the vast majority of these plans do not even cover maternity services.
"Insurance companies, despite being aware of discriminatory practices such as gender rating, had not voluntarily taken steps to eliminate them," said NWLC Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger. "Huge and arbitrary variations exist in each state and across the country in the difference in premiums charged to women and men, even when maternity coverage is excluded. While some states have already outlawed or limited gender-based inequities in health insurance premiums, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, they will be banned in individual and small-group markets nationwide. Finally, women will be charged fairly when it comes to buying health insurance."
Today's announcement also finalized the rule prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals based on so-called "pre-existing conditions." For example, insurers have deemed women to have a pre-existing condition if they previously gave birth by Caesarean section; are pregnant at the time they seek coverage; survived domestic violence and received treatment related to abuse; or received medical treatment after sexual assault. The final rules released today prohibit this practice and require insurers to sell insurance to anyone who wants to buy coverage (known as "guaranteed issue").
"The National Women's Law Center and women across the country stood up and demanded an end to discriminatory treatment by insurance companies and pressed for quality, affordable health care for women and their families," said Greenberger. "Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and its many supporters across the country, women will no longer be a pre-existing condition."
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