Leahy, Mikulski, 23 Senate Colleagues Continue Fight To End Gender Rating, Discriminatory Health Insurance Industry Practices That Deny Coverage To Women

Senators send letter encouraging negotiators merging Senate HELP and Finance health care reform bills to include provisions ending discrimination across all insurance markets

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and 24 of her Senate colleagues today sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), HELP Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) encouraging them to maximize this historic opportunity to end punitive practices currently used by insurance companies to deny coverage to women.

The letter urges the group of Senators, who are responsible for merging the HELP and Finance committee bills into one comprehensive Senate bill, to include provisions eliminating gender rating and discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and to ensure that these provisions are applied to all insurance markets in a timely manner.

“When it comes to health insurance, women are discriminated against. We pay more – in higher premiums – and get less. Often we are denied care, whether it’s because pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition, or because we’re not covered for preventive and wellness initiatives,” Senator Mikulski said. “The good men of America are on our side too. They want to end discrimination against their mothers, daughters and wives, and make health care more affordable for all Americans.”

The letter was signed by 24 Senators, including: Senators Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kristen E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.), John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-W.Va.), and Roland W. Burris (D.-Ill.).

You can see a PDF of the letter above, or read the text 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 , 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 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 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 - 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.

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