October 30 2009
The rather inflammatory characterization of risk management put forth by the National Women's Law Center, "Being a Woman Is Not a Pre-Existing Condition," is rather telling: first, of course it is, just as being male or 25 years old or diabetic. All of these carry a certain risk profile, and it's the job of the insurer to adequately price those risks. So being a healthy male, I pay up to 40% more for life insurance than a similarly-aged female, and my 22 year old daughter pays significantly less than her 22 year old male peers. Shall we level that playing field, as well?
Didn't think so.
But somehow, when it comes to health insurance, risk is suddenly a bad word? If we were to adopt rules which require healthy folks to pay the same as unhealthy ones, or men to pay the same as women despite having fewer claims, this would be acceptable?
Didn't think so.
But I'm not alone in this; the Independent Women's Forum recently surveyed some 800 of those females, and found something interesting:
"When asked the relative priority of healthcare to other issues, only 16% said healthcare should be top issue for Congress to address ... 51% of women are unsatisfied and 42% are satisfied with what they have read, seen, or heard about the proposals or legislation to change the way healthcare is covered and delivered here ... Most would prefer that any expanded involvement exclude them personally." [emphasis in original]
Three-quarters of those surveyed would prefer that their own healthcare be left untouched, or only slightly modified. What's even more telling is the reaction to the current meme that our health care system is in crisis: "43% of women say that Congress and the President should enact healthcare reform 'only when quality legislation is developed, even if it means there is no deadline.'" [emphasis in original]
It seems to me that if there was a groundswell of support for "leveling" that premium playing field, we'd have seen that reflected in these numbers, which we don't. "Leveling" those premiums, that is, removing the element of risk from the equation, changes everything. As I mentioned in the KHN article, "(i)f you don't base it on risk, you don't have insurance. You have income redistribution." I stand by that and, apparently, so do a lot of women.