#1 Way to Save Money: Don't Be Female

BlogHer Original Post

Due to the woes of the economy, BlogHer has been bringing the blog reading public excellent information on ways to save money. While BlogHer's contributing editors have been doing a wonderful job, I'm going to cut to the chase and tell you, point blank, the #1 way to save money: don't be female. Whether paying more for dry cleaning or earning less for performing the same job as a man, being female is costly! The latest evidence indicates that women are also charged more than men for the exact same insurance coverage. I know we should be grateful and all just to have access to equally low quality insurance as men, just like Lily Ledbetter should have just appreciated being allowed to work even if she was systemically paid less than even men with less experience, but still. I'm angry! Let's take a look at the issue, shall we?

The New York Times reports:

Striking new evidence has emerged of a widespread gap in the cost of health insurance, as women pay much more than men of the same age for individual insurance policies providing identical coverage, according to new data from insurance companies and online brokers.

Some insurance executives expressed surprise at the size and prevalence of the disparities, which can make a woman’s insurance cost hundreds of dollars a year more than a man’s. Women’s advocacy groups have raised concerns about the differences, and members of Congress have begun to question the justification for them.

The new findings, which are not easily explained away, come amid anxiety about the declining economy. More and more people are shopping for individual health insurance policies because they have lost jobs that provided coverage.

The emphasis is mine. Because you know what? I am really, really angry about this. I mean, I shouldn't be, since women are such a burden on insurance companies and everything, but being female, I'm prone to hysteria. But don't take my emotional, irrational reactions this news alone - even some men are puzzling over the situation.

Mrs. Micah's Finance for a Freelance Life beat the Times reporting by three days. On Monday, Mr. Micah guest posted:

...suddenly I remembered my health insurance bill must be imminently due. Leaping from my computer onto the nearest pile of mail, I found not only my own bill, but (shock!) Mrs. Micah’s.

We’re insured separately, you see, because I’m certifiably insane... I’m just kidding. But not really. I do have to take prescription medication for depression. And depression runs in the family...If we applied as a couple, we thought I’d get rejected and that would slow down Mrs. Micah’s acceptance.

Now, back to last week . . .Checking the due dates, I decided it would be best if I did the check-writing this time... I was about to make out both checks for the same amount, when I had a stroke of intelligence. I double-checked Mrs. Micah’s bill.

Turns out she has to pay a full eleven dollars more than me per month.

A couple days after the bill-paying incident, we went to visit a couple friends. When it comes to health-insurance risk, we and they are practically identical.

And from what they told us during our visit, we’re more the same than we ever thought.

So, who designed this system?! If it happens to you, you think it must be a fluke. If it happens to you and your friends, it’s got to be a conspiracy.

Still skeptical? Read Andrea's raging-yet-hilarious open letter to Blue Shield at Sweet Life:

The one telling me that after all those personal questions you asked me on a daily basis (for weeks, no, months) finally helped you make a decision on my request to have a lower rating for my health insurance. The one where you told me that, instead of lowering my rating, you were actually raising it.

And she didn't even ask for maternity coverage, which was very considerate of her. I mean, why on earth should women expect others to share the burden of having a baby or anything? It is totally outrageous, I know. It's totally women's faults that we get pregnant instead of our husbands/boyfriends/partners/dates/one night stands/whatever. No one should have to pay for that or anything. It's like asking everyone in society to chip in for public school costs and all that. Worse, even if we aren't knocked up, those uteruses (uteri?) and breasts that we have demand regular check ups for maintenance. One or two gynecology appointments a year will totally cut into the bonus pool of insurance execs since they so diminish profits. And forget mammograms! They cost a few hundred bucks a pop!

Even skipping over the whole human reproduction thing (although there's much more said about it by Anglachel's Journal, if you choose to go down that slippery slope), there's an important subtheme here: not only do Andrea and Mrs. Micah pay higher rates for health insurance because they are female, they were also subjected to significant investigations of their health and personal history than men. Mr. Micah noted that he is prone to depression, and he was shocked when the insurance company asked him no other questions but put Mrs. Micah "through the wringer." Several people speculated that this is because women go to the doctor more often than men, and thus are more expensive. Except that receiving routine preventive care is significantly less expensive than what medical care costs if a person ignores a problem until it is a very huge problem.

You know what? Just thinking about this is raising my blood pressure. My heart is pounding harder and harder. Maybe women are more expensive to insure because we are frequently discriminated against, which makes us stressed, which leads to health problems, which leads to doctors, which makes insurance companies angry because they hate when you spend their precious profits on health care.

Since the election is coming up next week, I might as well throw in some politics. John McCain has been wandering the nation happily explaining his health insurance plan to Americans. Those of us who receive insurance through work (which, incidentally, charges the same premiums to men and women - the socialist bastards!) will now pay taxes on this benefit. Then married folks get an exciting $5,000 ($2,500 if you are single, even if you have kids) tax credit to compensate for the new taxes, theoretically covering the new taxes we'll pay, making it a wash. I'm not sure why this is simpler than what we have, but whatever. The great news is that many employers will drop insurance coverage, so lots of people will be forced to buy their own policies. And in buying our own policies, we can expect to pay about $12,000 per year for premiums, which you may have noticed is more than the $5,000 tax credit. Except that women will likely pay more for their premiums since we now know that they pay anywhere from22%-49% more than men. Incidentally, McCain is not offering women larger tax credits to make up the difference. Even better, he will deregulate the insurance marketplace, so if you live in a state that requires health insurance companies to cover mammograms, birth control, and other women's "health" (to borrow McCain's term), your higher premiums may very likely not include those needs.

So, all in all, the best way to save money is to not be female. Good luck to the 50% of us who fall under that expense category.

Suzanne also blogs about life at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants. Her first book, Off the Beaten (Subway) Track, is about unusual things to see and do in New York City.

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