Peggy Robertson and her sons, Sam, 9, and Luke, at their home in Centennial, Colo. An insurance company rejected Ms. Robertson because of her Caesarean, explaining in a letter that she would have been eligible if she had been sterilized.

By DENISE GRADY
Published: March 29, 2010 in NY TIMES

Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition. That’s the new mantra, repeated triumphantly by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and other advocates for women’s health. But what does it mean?

In the broadest sense, the new health care law forbids sex discrimination in health insurance. Previously, there was no such ban, and insurance companies took full advantage of the void.

“The health care industry and health care insurance in general has been riddled with the most discriminatory and unfair practices to women,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, the founder and co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. “This law is a giant leap forward to dismantling the unfairness that has been a part of the system.”

Until now, it has been perfectly legal in most states for companies selling individual health policies — for people who do not have group coverage through employers — to engage in “gender rating,” that is, charging women more than men for the same coverage, even for policies that do not include maternity care. The rationale was that women used the health care system more than men. But some companies charged women who did not smoke more than men who did, even though smokers have more risks. The differences in premiums, from 4 percent to 48 percent, according to a 2008 analysis by the law center, can add up to hundreds of dollars a year. The individual market is the one that many people turn to when they lose their jobs and their group coverage. Click here for full article.

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