Should Women Pay Higher Premiums for Health Insurance?
My recent post on ObamaCare’s War on Men discussed the fact that ObamaCare’s elimination of gender-based insurance premium differentials unfairly penalizes men. It generated 128 comments, many of which speculated that pregnancy generated the cost differential.
As the following data show, women appear to use more health care even after their childbearing years are over. It is unlikely that babies are responsible for the entire cost differential. Even if they are, a price system that does not reflect differential usage will do a poor job of allocating resources.
Increased premiums for women would be unfair if they used more health services of the sort that are not covered by health insurance, something that has become more difficult now that ObamaCare requires that so many medical purchases be financed through some sort of health coverage. It is theoretically possible, for example, that women have more cosmetic procedures for which they pay cash.
However, evidence from market pricing suggests that this is not the case. In Denver in 2008, premiums for a medically underwritten individual policy, one that did not cover cosmetic procedures, were $8 dollars a month more for women in their 20s, $23 a month more for women in their 30s, $30 a month more for women in their 40s, $35 a month more for women in their 50s, and $1 a month more for women in their 60s. Colorado did not require individual policies to cover maternity until 2011.
Here are some additional data on utilization by gender from the National Center for Health Statistics. Note that costs over age 65 should not affect individual insurance premiums as people over age 65 are generally covered by Medicare.
The number of visits per 100 persons to physician offices, hospital outpatient departments and hospital emergency departments for men and women in 2010:
Age: Under 18
The number of people with one or more hospital stays in 2011, percent:
1-17 years old
18-44 years old
45-54 years old
55-64 years old
Mean annual expense per person with expense for health care and prescribed medicine, 2009. (Percent of people with an expense is in parentheses):
65 or Older
Severe headache or migraine
Low Back Pain
Percent Obese, aged 20 and over
—Linda Gorman is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Health Care Policy Institute at the Independence Institute, a state-based free market think tank in Golden, Colorado.
A former academic economist, she has written extensively about the problems created by government interference in health care decisions and the promise of consumer directed health care. Her articles on minimum wages, education, and discrimination appear in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.
A frequent contributor to John Goodman’s Health Policy blog, she is also a member of the Galen Institute’s Health Policy Consensus Group and was appointed to the Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission for Healthcare Reform where she co-authored one of the Commission’s minority reports. She holds a Ph.D. in economics