When insurance firms launched social media initiatives, the results were rewarding.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 -- The National Women's Law Center issued the following news release:
Today, the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) filed sex discrimination complaints against four of the country's largest insurance companies - Genworth Financial, John Hancock, Transamerica and Mutual of Omaha - in response to their recently-announced practice to begin "gender rating" long-term care insurance policies, or charging women more than men for the same coverage simply because they are women. These complaints are believed to be the first to challenge gender rating in long-term care insurance under the provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that prohibits sex discrimination in health care.
The complaints, filed with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services, assert that the gender rating by these four companies violates the ACA's anti-discrimination rule, which protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex (as well as race, color, national origin, age, disability, gender identity, and sex stereotypes) in health care. This is the first law to ban gender discrimination in health care nationwide and applies to virtually all aspects of the health care system, including long-term care insurance. As of 2010, between seven and nine million Americans had long-term care insurance policies and approximately 57 percent of them were women.
"By gender rating their long-term care insurance policies, these companies are charging women 20 to 40 percent more than men for the same product," said NWLC Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger. "Requiring women to pay higher prices just because they are women is wrong, unfair and, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, is now illegal sex discrimination."
Genworth Financial (based in Richmond, Virginia), John Hancock (based in Boston, Massachusetts), Transamerica (based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and Mutual of Omaha (based in Omaha, Nebraska) all participate in long-term care partnerships in states across the country. These partnerships are joint efforts among federal and state Medicaid programs, state agencies, and private long-term care insurers that encourage individuals to purchase approved long-term care insurance policies. Forty-five states have or are planning to establish such long-term care partnerships. Because the four companies sell their discriminatory policies through these partnerships across their country, their gender rating is a national problem.
In addition to the complaints against the companies, the Center has filed complaints against state government agencies operating these partnerships in Kentucky, Minnesota and Washington - three states selected from different parts of the country, all operating representative partnership programs - and against the federal Medicaid agency, for allowing these agencies to sell their discriminatory policies through the long-term care partnerships. The Center's complaints ask that the companies be banned from participating in these programs unless they stop discriminating.
"Women already have a hard enough time making ends meet, earning only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men," said NWLC Vice-President and General Counsel Emily Martin. "With lower wages to begin with, women simply can't afford to pay 20 to 40 percent more than men for the same long-term care insurance."
"The ACA has already made great strides in improving women's health care and combating sex discrimination," Greenberger said. "The Center is calling on OCR to take all necessary steps to investigate these complaints and ensure that women are not overcharged in the long-term care insurance market."
The complaints listed above are available at:
For more information on nondiscrimination protection in the Affordable Care Act: http://www.nwlc.org/resource/nondiscrimination-protection-affordable-care-act-section-1557
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