My name is Tammy Brown. I am on the board of directors of The Womxn Project. The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
We commit to centering the people most impacted, leveraging the collective strength of the community, and working to directly take on and eliminate systems of oppressions.
We envision a future where we can all live with health and dignity. I am proud to be here to testify in support of H. 7440, which prohibits insurance companies from varying the premium rates charged for a health coverage plan based on gender.
Women continue to face unfair and discriminatory practices when obtaining health insurance. Women are charged more for health coverage simply because they are women, and individual market health plans often exclude coverage for services that only women need, like maternity care. Some states have outlawed or limited these practices recognizing the harm they are causing. It is time that Rhode Island step up to address the inequity and the consequences of increased costs when too many people continue to struggle to maintain insurance and to afford the care they need.
The claim is that women cost more and prenatal and maternity care are often cited. Let’s put aside the fact that this is horrifying to allow for additional financial obstacles to be created because women need care to have a healthy pregnancy. In states like Rhode Island that have not banned gender rating, research shows the vast majority – more than 90% – of best-selling plans charge 40-year-old women more than 40-year-old men for coverage. Only 3% of these plans cover maternity services and women 40 and above are far less likely to need or seek maternity care.
Even with maternity coverage excluded, nearly a third of plans examined charge 25- and 40-year-old women at least 30% more than men for the same coverage and in some cases, the difference is far greater.
Consider this – it is common for a female non-smoker to be charged more than a male smoker simply because she is a woman. For example, 56% of best-selling plans charge a 40-year-old woman who does not smoke more than a 40-year-old man who does smoke.
Fourteen states have taken steps to ban or limit gender rating in the individual market and 17 states have laws banning or limiting gender rating for group health plans. We are falling way behind in closing gaps in care that women need to manage our health and take care of ourselves and our families.
Every month, women who live in states that allow gender rating are made to pay higher premiums than men for the same coverage. Over time, this additional cost adds up. This means we may not be able to maintain health insurance or may forego other needs. This contributes to women not being able to save for retirement and further pushes many families into poverty.
Women are charged more for coverage simply because they are women at the same time that insurers exclude coverage for services that only women need, like maternity care. This is a vicious cycle, particularly when you consider that huge and ongoing health disparities women of color and low-income families continue to face in a wide range of health services.
We urge your support of H. 7440. This important legislation has been considered for several years now. It is way past time that we take action to protect women in our state against this discriminatory practice. I urge you to vote “yes”. Thank you.
Contact: Tammy Brown