October 31, 2008
Health insurance companies charging women higher premiums than men: Okay or outrage?
We've already established that health insurance is one of the top concerns of new hires negotiating a compensation package with an employer. As for those of us with part-time, contract, or full-time jobs that don't come with health coverage, we do our best to get on a partner's plan or muddle through with costly COBRA insurance benefits, an individual plan bought through a site like eHealthInsurance, or no insurance at all.
For those of us paying our own way for health coverage (yours truly included) -- and trying not to rip every last hair from our head as our rates climb with each passing year -- Wednesday's New York Times article about how insurance companies charge women significantly higher premiums for individual health coverage than men is a tough one to swallow. The arguments for the 20 to 50 percent higher rates? Women have babies, and we tend to go to the doctor more than men.
Because I rarely go to the doctor, am in relatively good health, and do not intend to have babies (and no, I'm not changing my mind; biologically that ship has pretty much sailed), I was not happy to read this news. Many New York Times readers were up in arms too, but for varied reasons:
"Men pay significantly more for car insurance and life insurance," many said. "Doesn't it all work out evenly in the end?"
"Women still make less money than men on many fronts," others said. "This is one more injustice."
One commenter even quipped that perhaps the best solution for women was to get their tubes tied and then negotiate a new rate with their insurance carrier, as they wouldn't be requiring maternity benefits any longer.
As someone who's been buying her own health insurance for 15 years, the best solution I've found is to work with an insurance agent who represents multiple carriers. Like the travel agents of decades past, they'll find you the deal that makes the most financial sense for you, based on your medical needs. Example: I recently saved $1,000 a year in insurance premiums by dropping maternity and prescription drug benefits from my health plan -- two offerings I've yet to use. Working with a reputable agent won't cost you a dime; they earn their commission from the insurance companies. Just make sure your agent comes recommended from a friend or colleague.
How about you? If you're not getting insurance through work or a partner, how are you getting it? And what do you think of the matter of women paying more for health premiums and men paying more for other types of insurance?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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