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Tue Oct 9, 2012, 09:49 AM

 

Double standard in reporting gender based insurance costs

The EU recently passed a law banning sex based differences in premiums for car insurance. Men pay more on average so this means insurance rates for men will drop (or rise for women).

Recently the US passed a law banning the same thing for health insurance (not an issue in the EU). I was curious based on my on memories of the reporting, on how these two laws were received.

The top google hits on the US health insurance ruling were:


Gender Gap Persists in Cost of Health Insurance: Women still pay more than men for the same health insurance coverage, according to new research and data from online brokers.


Stop sex discrimination in health plan costs: Women face shocking disparities when buying health insurance on the individual market: In the vast majority of states, nearly all the best-selling plans charge women more than men for the same coverage, a discriminatory practice known as "gender rating."


Report: Health Insurance Gender Discrimination Costs Women $1 Billion a Year: According to a report from the non-profit National Women’s Law Center, the practice of health insurance companies charging women more than men for the same coverage is rampant, and costs women one billion dollars a year.


Gender Rating in the Individual Health Insurance Market: In most states, insurers are currently allowed to consider gender when setting premium rates in the individual health insurance market, where people buy coverage directly from insurance companies. As a result of “gender rating,” women are often charged more than men for the exact same coverage.


Health Insurance Prices For Women Set To Drop: Any woman who has bought health insurance on her own probably didn't find herself humming the old show tune, "I Enjoy Being a Girl." That's because more than 90 percent of individual plans charge women higher premiums than men for the same coverage, a practice known as gender rating.

. . . . and so on.

Now for the EU ruling:


Car insurance: why women face £300 rise in premiums: An EU ruling means insurance commpanies must end gender discrimination, and female drivers under 40 will be hit hardest


3 in 4 female drivers unaware of premium hikes: Many women are still unaware that their car insurance premiums are about to soar in the wake of new European legislation.

EU gender ruling means women face big car insurance increases: A new report shows that the difference in premiums between male and female drivers has now reached 41 per cent.


Diamond Reveals Young Women Unprepared for Change in Gender Law: In just over three months' time a new law comes into force which will prevent insurance companies from pricing premiums based on gender. This is likely to mean higher car insurance premiums for young women, but new research reveals the majority of those who will be most affected by the change are completely unaware of it.


Consumer group warns new EU law could spark 'gender price hike': A consumer organisation is advising motorists to "shop around" when new EU-wide insurance rules come into effect later this year. From 21 December, insurers will no longer be able to charge women lower car insurance premiums than men.

. . . and so on.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Not exactly subtle is it? Discrepancies that benefit men are discriminatory and harm women. They must be corrected at all costs and if that causes prices to rise for men well tough (actually do they? It was never mentioned in any of those first 5 articles, apparently the extra money just comes from no where).

Discrepancies that benefit women are just part of the natural order of things. Correcting them is a direct attack on women because it costs them more. If that means prices are lowered for men well who cares (actually are they? It was never mentioned in any of those last 5 articles, apparently the extra money just goes nowhere).

In every case the story is framed based on it's impact towards women (as a benefit or a harm) and any benefits or costs to men are barely (if at all) noted as perhaps a side issue.

It's interesting because that would indicate that women are the norm against which everything else is compared. Considering women as the norm and men as the other doesn't exactly smack of privilege to me. Well, not male privilege anyway.

If the situation were entirely reversed you can believe some people would be screaming about how unfair that characterization would be. As is they take their privilege in stride.

/if you don't believe me do your own google search. I typed in "health insurance premiums gender US" and "car insurance premiums gender EU". I didn't do anything to skew the results towards this outcome and I simply took the first 5 that came up on my feed. I would be curious how long it would take on a neutral search to find an article title claiming that men will suffer from the first or benefit from the second.

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Arrow 20 replies Author Time Post
Reply Double standard in reporting gender based insurance costs (Original post)
4th law of robotics Oct 2012 OP
lumberjack_jeff Oct 2012 #1
TreasonousBastard Oct 2012 #2
4th law of robotics Oct 2012 #6
lumberjack_jeff Oct 2012 #10
TreasonousBastard Oct 2012 #11
digonswine Oct 2012 #3
4th law of robotics Oct 2012 #4
digonswine Oct 2012 #5
TreasonousBastard Oct 2012 #7
digonswine Oct 2012 #8
4th law of robotics Oct 2012 #13
Major Nikon Oct 2012 #17
Warren DeMontague Oct 2012 #9
4th law of robotics Oct 2012 #12
Warren DeMontague Oct 2012 #14
Major Nikon Oct 2012 #16
Warren DeMontague Oct 2012 #19
Major Nikon Oct 2012 #15
lumberjack_jeff Oct 2012 #18
Major Nikon Oct 2012 #20

Response to 4th law of robotics (Original post)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 10:07 AM

1. Exactly right.

 

The cultural biases at work in the west may be patriarchal, but only the parts that protect women.

Gender reporting is an attitude in search of a justification.

Is sex discrimination bad? Most of us would say yes. Is the fact that more money is spent on women's care than on men a problem? Apparently not, provided that the cost differential is pushed onto men.

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Response to 4th law of robotics (Original post)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 10:38 AM

2. I spent around 20 or so years as a insurance underwriter...

insuring ships and cargos but the principle is the same-- you rate on the experience of an account or a class.

Don't have time to read the articles, but I doubt there's much actuarial data about the difference in claim frequency or expense between men and women, but when we talk about "equal coverage" are we including pregnancy and birth? Men don't have regular gynecological services and don't seem to go to the doctor much at all unless necessary. But, does this not going for checkups end up costing more when simple conditions turn complicated? Or, does more physical trauma with men equal out the costs?

Most people not in the business don't understand that the "insurance" part of a policy is for unexpected expenses, not normal expenses. If you are going to experience $1,000 in claims in a normal year, the premium starts at $1,000 and goes up from there-- the company isn't in the business of paying your bills. If one year you have a $100,000 claim, that's why you bought the insurance.

This principle works for both an account or a class. If we're talking about a class, like male drivers under 25 or post menopausal women, the total "normal" costs for all members of that class are spread among all of them and the premiums go up from there.

Messing with the system for political purposes doesn't change the arithmetic, just moves the bills around.





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Response to TreasonousBastard (Reply #2)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 11:20 AM

6. "Messing with the system for political purposes doesn't change the arithmetic . . . "

 

Bingo.

I have no particular love for the insurance companies. But in all fairness they can back their claims up with hard math. And their profit margins are far from exorbitant compared to other industries (Apple profit margins makes the insurance companies look like charities).

And as much as it may appear otherwise when it's *you* involved they aren't out to get anyone in particular.

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Response to TreasonousBastard (Reply #2)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 07:16 PM

10. Lots of actuarial data exists.

 

But media doesn't report it.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361028/

Per capita lifetime expenditure is $316,600, a third higher for females ($361,200) than males ($268,700). Two-fifths of this difference owes to women's longer life expectancy. Nearly one-third of lifetime expenditures is incurred during middle age, and nearly half during the senior years. For survivors to age 85, more than one-third of their lifetime expenditures will accrue in their remaining years.

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #10)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 08:55 PM

11. Oops! Just reread my post and what I meant was...

"I don't doubt..." No idea how the "don't" went missing, but I was doing some rewriting and it probably got erased.

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Response to 4th law of robotics (Original post)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 11:02 AM

3. Try as I might-

I can't see auto insurance and health insurance as being equivalent.

I am not going to do a bunch of research, but I would guess that men were previously being charged more for auto insurance due to an imbalance in claims based on their driving more than females, in general. I do not know if this is the case or not.
Were they being charged more based on claims, or cost to the insurance company, or just because they were males?
You seem to have done some research, so I hope you can easily shed some light here.

I do feel that health insurance should fall outside of the normal ways of calculating rates. Of course-it would not matter if we simply did the right thing in this country, but that is another topic!

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Response to digonswine (Reply #3)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 11:12 AM

4. In both cases people are charged more due to their gender

 

based on actuarial tables.

Women live longer (most health care costs appear late in life), get pregnant, receive more regular care, and are more likely to die slowly of a treatable (but expensive) ailment. From a purely cost effective basis (from the insurance companies) men are great: men are more likely to ignore some condition until it becomes untreatable then die quickly. Or to die of violence (again, quickly). So men are cheaper and thus are charged less.

The reverse holds true for auto-insurance: women are less likely to get in wrecks and when they do they tend to be low-speed and thus less costly.

In both cases the 'ideal' from the insurers point of view is someone who pays in regularly and rarely uses his/her insurance (and when they do in small amounts).

In both cases there is a gendered basis to the use of the insurance (it just flips between health and car).

Insurance companies don't hate men or women. They just love money. They're going by some very well collected data sets that have been dispassionately analyzed for decades. For them it really is "nothing personal". So they aren't out to get anyone really.

And I wasn't trying to compare the two (I debated adding that to the OP). Obviously they are different. However the reporting on them was interesting: both were simply comparing costs. And in that they are the same. The difference was in who was paying more. And the reporters dutifully pointed out when women were benefiting, or when women were suffering. One would think women were the entire population based on these reports,rather than half.

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Response to 4th law of robotics (Reply #4)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 11:19 AM

5. I'm glad you were not comparing the two as equal-

and a more balanced(not Fox) approach to supposedly dispassionate reporting would be welcome.

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Response to digonswine (Reply #5)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 12:35 PM

7. As I explained upthread, they are equivalent...

with the only difference being that with health insurance people want everything covered while they don't expect car insurance to pay for brake jobs or oil changes. (And we're just talking collision and comprehensive here, not liability.)

Any form of insurance is simply analyzing costs and throwing some money in a pot for the unexpected. Even life insurance exists to pay for an unexpected early death.

Every time you buy a bottle of aspirin, a pack of condoms, or undergo open heart surgery it costs money The open question with health insurance is just who is to pay. Is an annual checkup or a colonoscopy an unexpected cost or regular maintenance of the body? Pregnancy may be unexpected, but in the grand scheme of things is it an "insurable risk"?

We're heading the direction of most of these "maintenance" or planned costs as proper to be included in some sort of health plan. Calling it "insurance" then becomes a misnomer if we're going to cover everything so it no longer resembles car or homeowners insurance but becomes something else.

But, somebody still has to pay, so the costs get spread among plan members or taxpayers. We still have the original formula of adding up and charging for all the costs of pills, MRIs, checkups, minor surgeries and whatever that everyone will have and then throwing some extra money in a pot for open heart surgery and kidney transplants.


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Response to TreasonousBastard (Reply #7)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 04:02 PM

8. I understand that from the insurer's viewpoint-

these two things are identical.
They are not equivalent in a humanitarian or social justice or I don't know what to call it sense.
I do not advocate for universal car coverage. I do for single-payer health care. I do not think it is just for one person to pay more because they have an XX genotype verses one that is XY.
I get that someone has to pay-I'm fine with that. If it means that our health care system is not only good for the have's--fine.
For now, we are paying the middlemen. I hope this changes.

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Response to digonswine (Reply #8)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 11:10 AM

13. I agree with all that

 

the math is the same in both cases even though the outcomes are not.

I was more interested in the disparity in reporting.

Those reports weren't concerned that healthcare was a human right and women were being particularly denied access to it. They were simply upset that women paid more. Purely financial.

And with the car insurance thing they were concerned that women might end up paying more. Purely financial.

No matter what, the mantra goes, any policy ought to be judged based solely on how it affects women.

/"Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat."

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Response to digonswine (Reply #8)

Thu Oct 11, 2012, 05:34 AM

17. I'm not even sure how you would make the argument from a social justice viewpoint

Your assumption is that unequal outcomes are always ethically wrong and I see that as an argument which is deeply flawed. If we are to accept a system which bases premiums on actuary tables (and certainly there is a completely separate argument against this which you previously alluded), then the argument against disparate outcomes becomes considerably weaker.

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Response to 4th law of robotics (Original post)

Tue Oct 9, 2012, 05:34 PM

9. I plug any argument or discussion around Health Insurance into my operating system, and I always get

the same fucking answer:

SINGLE PAYER HEALTH CARE SYSTEM.

Nothing else makes sense, IMHO. Everything else is either going to result in incomplete coverage, half-assed measures, unneccessary overhead, etc. The whole point of health insurance is that the healthy people pay for the sick; so make the pool as big as possible (i.e. everyone) and spread the risk out equally. And get for-profit insurance out of the equation.

The system we have now, where insurance is tied to employment, is doubly ridiculous because it's the sickest people who not only need the insurance most, but who oftentimes can't work.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #9)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 09:13 AM

12. "US gets single payer health care system! Women expected to be benefit most"

 

Also men exist probably.

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Response to 4th law of robotics (Reply #12)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 02:05 PM

14. Everyone would win.

except the for-profit insurance industry.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #9)

Thu Oct 11, 2012, 05:15 AM

16. I would go two steps farther

Which is to do what other countries do which is universal coverage and basing premiums progressively on income rather than risk. However this is a progressive idea that is beyond the small American's mind to grasp.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #16)

Thu Oct 11, 2012, 10:25 AM

19. Hmm, I would think that a SPHC funded through taxes would do that sort of automatically

since taxes are progressive/income based.

Good point.

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Response to 4th law of robotics (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2012, 05:08 AM

15. Just because something is discriminatory, doesn't mean it's wrong

This is a hard concept for most people to grasp. The word discrimination carries a lot of negative connotation so people simply assume that all discrimination is always wrong, even though the logical argument for that fails. Trucking companies aren't forced to hire blind truckers for obvious reasons. Lots of other examples exist.

So simply labeling a practice as discriminatory by itself is not a sufficient argument for corrective measures. You still have to make the case that such discrimination is ethically wrong, and I'm not sure such an argument can be reasonably made. Older people are charged higher rates also, which is also discriminatory. So long as insurance companies are allowed to use actuaries to determine rates, there will always be effective discrimination.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #15)

Thu Oct 11, 2012, 10:24 AM

18. Yup. The opposite of "discriminate" is "indiscriminate"

 

Despite the fact that it costs more to have the costs of women's better care shifted onto me, I think it's an appropriate measure in the path toward universal (ideally single-payer) coverage.

But it's lazy reporting at best to refuse to recognize the real and quantifiable reasons that women used to pay more; because more is spent on their behalf. It wasn't "a penalty for being a woman", it's a cost associated with living 5 years longer.

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #18)

Fri Oct 12, 2012, 03:56 AM

20. I think it is counterproductive to universal and/or single payer

For one thing, in order to justify a correction you have to assume that unequal outcomes are always unethical, even if they are the result of personal choices. This is pretty piss-poor public policy. Even if you dismiss that, the very best you can say about such a correction is that it's a half-fast solution in search of a problem that deflects from the larger issue.

Basing premiums on actuary tables is always discriminatory. That's the whole point of using them in the first place. Putting a band aid on a compound fracture just doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

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