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April 26, 2004
Health Insurers Beginning to Charge Women More

In Connecticut, employers are finding that an increasing number of health insurers are charging gender-based rates, resulting in higher rates for thousands of women.

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Anthem Blue Cross and UnitedHealth Group are among those using gender rates for small employers there, and recently ConnectiCare--one of Connecticut's largest health plans--announced plans to phase in gender-based rates starting July 1, according to the Hartford Courant.

ConnectiCare's changes, which could produce rate differences ranging from 3 to 40 percent, will apply to Connecticut workforces of 50 or fewer employees.

The new rates, which are subject to regulatory approval, are meant to reflect the differences in usage of medical services between men and women, the Courant reports. The size of the difference in premiums for men and women will depend on age, type of health plan and whether a spouse or children are covered.

The Courant reports that female workers subject to gender rates are expected to feel some financial pain. That's because small employers generally contribute a set percentage of the premium for a worker, or a specific dollar amount, regardless of the premium.

Meanwhile, men who work for small employers could see lower prices under gender rates than they would have seen under the current plan.

The final premiums that employers and workers pay, however, will be affected by more than just the switch to gender rates. ConnectiCare, like other insurers, also has regular rate increases to reflect rising medical costs.

In addition, insurers in the small-employer market charge higher premiums as workers age. The increases are significant when an employee reaches middle-age.

It's possible that some small employers would face steeply higher premiums if they are affected by all three factors.


The Hartford Courant

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