Bennet Pushes to Bring End to Gender Rating, Discriminatory Practices By Health Insurance Industry

Letter Urges Negotiators Merging Senate HELP and Finance Health Care Reform Bills to Include Provisions Ending Discrimination Across All Insurance Markets

Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado and member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, is pushing to bring an end to discriminatory health insurance industry practices that unfairly deny coverage to women.

In a letter to Senate leaders responsible for merging the HELP and Finance committee bills into one comprehensive Senate bill, Bennet and other HELP Committee members urged the leaders to include provisions eliminating gender rating and discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and to ensure that these provisions apply to all insurance markets in a timely manner.

"The fact that women are more likely to be denied coverage or pay higher insurance premiums simply because they're women isn't only unfair, it's wrong -- and it needs to end," said Bennet. "As the father of three little girls -- ages 10, 8 and 5 -- I know we can do better, and with common-sense health care reform, we will do better. Not just for my three girls, but for all women in America who want to be treated fairly when it comes to getting the health care coverage they need."

Last week, Bennet spoke out against discriminatory health insurance industry practices used to deny two Colorado infants, Alex Lange of Grand Junction and Aislin Bates of Eerie, health coverage for not meeting their proposed insurer's height and weight standards.

Earlier this month, Bennet also took part in a HELP Committee hearing looking at the harmful practices insurance companies use to discriminate against women. Video from that hearing can be found here.

The full text of the letter to Senate leaders is included below:

Dear Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Baucus, Chairman Harkin, and Senator Dodd:

As the Senate continues consideration of health care reform legislation and you work to merge the health care reform bills, we strongly encourage you to adopt provisions which would apply critical insurance market reforms, such as the elimination of gender rating, to all fully-insured and self-insured group plans, regardless of their size, and apply these reforms in a timely manner. Failing to adopt these market reforms in the group market will leave some women and men without any protection from harmful insurance industry practices.

We support including critical insurance market reforms, such as the elimination of gender rating and ending discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. Gender rating unfairly charges women higher premiums than men and discrimination based on pre-existing conditions allows insurers to deny coverage to victims of domestic violence or women who have had cesarean sections.

We ask that these market reforms are extended to the entire market - individual and group, without regard to the size of the group. Additionally, we urge that all of these reforms be implemented no later than 2013. If these reforms are not applied to the group market, women working for some employers with majority female workforces, such as child care providers or home health agencies, will never be protected from the harmful insurance industry practices of gender rating. Additionally these reforms should be applied to the individual, moderate, and group markets at the same time. No one should be denied timely protection from this unfair discrimination based solely on the size of their workforce.

Failure to extend these reforms to all groups in a timely manner would be especially harmful for those who are part of a workforce that is majority female. We urge you to adopt the insurance market reforms to ensure that all groups - without regard to size - are protected from harmful insurance industry practices and without unnecessary delay.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to advance health care reform legislation that ends harmful insurance industry practices, expands coverage and lowers health care costs for all Americans.