Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

National Women's Law Center Challenges Insurance Industry Practices that Treat Being a Woman Like a "Pre-Existing Condition"

California’s Governor Schwarzenegger Bans Practice of Charging Women Higher Insurance Rates Than Men; Congressional Hearing Scheduled

October 13, 2009

(Washington, DC)  The National Women’s Law Center’s (NWLC) report Nowhere to Turn: How the Individual Health Insurance Market Fails Women, first released in September 2008, brought to light how the insurance industry discriminates against women. Now, this ground-breaking research has resulted in the enactment of a law in California – signed by Governor Schwarzenegger over the weekend – that bans the insurance industry practice of gender rating or charging women more than men for the same services.

“For too long, gender rating has caused hardship to many thousands of women, who have either had to forgo health insurance altogether or sacrifice to cover the extra premium cost,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of NWLC.

NWLC is on the front lines in the fight to obtain meaningful health care reform that works for women and continues to develop new research and initiatives that will intensify the spotlight on unfair insurance industry practices. This Thursday, Ms. Greenberger is expected to testify on Capitol Hill about disparities in how insurance companies treat women.

Data and research from the NWLC report “Nowhere to Turn” has become the cornerstone of the argument used by women Senators, activists and other organizations who are advocating for meaningful health care reform.  The report also highlights:

  • Women are regularly denied coverage for "pre-existing conditions" including pregnancy, a previous C-Section or past domestic abuse.
  • Insurance companies charge women as much as 48% more for individual health care coverage than men.
  • It is expensive, difficult and in some states impossible for women to find coverage for maternity care when purchasing their own health insurance plan
  • A state-by-state overview of how insurance practices adversely impact women.

At the same time that the Governor signed the gender rating bill, he also vetoed a bill that would have required health plans to cover maternity services.

Greenberger stated: “Although he did not require coverage for maternity services, banning gender rating is a great first step for improving health care for women. However,  piece-meal measures will not be enough. Health care reform must eliminate once and for all the many challenges that women face in getting access to quality, affordable, comprehensive health care.”

###