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Who ever thought you'd be punished for regularly seeing a doctor?

2009 February 6
by Guinevere

This October 29, 2008 New York Times article discusses the disparity between men's and women's individual health insurance rates.  The main reason women are paying 30-50% more for individual health insurance than men?  "...women use more health care services. They are more likely to visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take prescription medications and to have certain chronic illnesses."

SERIOUSLY??? So, we're essentially punished for regularly seeing a doctor and trying to stay healthy... Great!  Not to mention, most of the insurance quotes used as evidence in this article are quotes for insurance policies that don't even cover maternity care.  (Let me reiterate: 30-50% more and that doesn't even cover maternity care!!!)  This tells me that the gap isn't based on a biological difference between the health care that a woman needs and the health care a man needs, but rather on a sociological difference between how women and men approach caring for their health.

Some critics of the disparity have drawn parallels to race issues.  I'm unclear on the actual rules here, but my understanding from the article is that actuaries (the people who determine how risky a person is) are not allowed include race as a risk factor.  Doesn't it immediately follow that they shouldn't be allowed to use gender?  We have clear evidence that certain races/ethnicities are more affected by certain illnesses than others, just as people of a certain gender/nongender are more affected by certain illnesses than others.  If we can't use race a a risk factor, we shouldn't use gender either.

As usual, Historiann, a history professor and blogger at Colorado State University, has a great commentary on this article.

4 Responses
  1. George permalink
    February 7, 2009

    I just think it is interesting to see how old world insurance companies are in a society that is supposed to be moving away from these old stereotypes. In a predominantly heterosexual nation where men are still encouraged to have sex with anyone who has a vagina, doesn't the responsibility of paying for the pregnancy and the maternity care fall also to the person who impregnated the woman in the first place? The NY Times article quotes "Cecil D. Bykerk, president of the Society of Actuaries, a professional organization, said that if male and female premiums were equalized, women would pay less but 'rates for men would go up.' "
    But shouldn't that be an alright thing to do if men are half of the reason women get pregnant and are considered to be merely baby-making machines in the eyes of insurance companies? (Oooh! woman are machines! Gender AND Technology anyone?) Even if the man is not the woman's partner, he still owes her health care during atleast pregnancy. C'mon!!! Women get paid 75 cents to a man's dollar (and I get the feeling men might have an easier time finding jobs in this economic crisis than women too... it's just a hunch) so make the premiums equal already!

    Great article Guinevere! And I also enjoyed Historiann's response to it as well.

  2. Guinevere permalink
    February 7, 2009

    Interesting that you mention women being less likely to get/have jobs in this recession. Historiann mentions another New York Times article, "As Layoffs Surge, Women May Pass Men in Job Force," in her Friday news round-up. The article discusses the evidence of its claim, but also how this may affect gender roles, especially when it comes to raising children and doing housework.

  3. George permalink
    February 7, 2009

    Actually, that article was even posted on this site by Alexandra. I hadn't noticed it before I commented (obviously:) ). But I am not sure how much credit I should actually give the NY Times article after reading it. It seemed like it was trying too hard to be sensationalist rather than factual.

    The article even says that:
    "When women are unemployed and looking for a job, the time they spend daily taking care of children nearly doubles. Unemployed men’s child care duties, by contrast, are virtually identical to those of their working counterparts, and they instead spend more time sleeping, watching TV and looking for a job, along with other domestic activities."

    So gender roles are not being changed, the woman is still the main care-giver for the children in a typical household. The man on the other hand is busy looking for a way to get back to being the main "breadwinner" (to use the language from the article), however he does not have a tendency to help in the house the way he should.

  4. February 7, 2009

    Thanks for the link--I'm a Bryn Mawr graduate myself (1990), so it's fun to hear about people at my old college reading my blog.

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