Surely, Robert Pear’s article in today’s New York Times, “Women buying health policies pay a penalty”, falls under the category of “old news”. (So old, indeed, that my former colleague Diana Ernst addressed it last year.)
Calling it a “penalty”, rather than an actuarially fair premium, is also an old tactic for those who think it would be fairer if the government made it illegal for health plans to charge different premiums to men versus women – which (in case you haven’t figured it out yet) is the goal of Mr. Pear’s article.
The article notes that women’s higher health costs are driven by two factors. The first is childbirth. But most babies are born to couples (at least outside Medicaid), so the costs are shared by both partners, not just the woman. The article notes that one way to reduce the premium differential is to buy a policy that does not cover the ordinary costs of pregnancy and delivery (cited as $8,000), but only complications from childbirth. Of course, this being the New York Times, the article cites a woman complaining that she had bought a policy, which did not give “first-dollar” coverage for pregnancy. It didn’t explain how she would have paid the higher premiums to pay for such coverage. Nor did it question how a woman unwilling and unprepared to pay for a normal pregnancy was going to take resposibility for raising a child. Oh, well.
The second reason is that women see doctors more frequently (for preventive care). Well, that’s a stunner! Doesn’t everyone tell us that preventive care saves money over time? Well, maybe that’s not really quite true (as we already know).
The high cost of women’s health care is a result of dramatic medical innovation, which has resulted in much safer childbirth, at which the women of even a century ago would marvel.