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Ending gender rating

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In 2014, under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies will no longer be able to take gender into account in premium rates. Women in Arkansas and Wyoming would benefit the most under the act, if left to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court: Women in those states who carry individual policies pay 76 percent to 100 percent more than men for the same health coverage, according to data gathered by the National Women's Law Center.

Only 13 states now prohibit gender discrimination. Only nine require all insurers on the individual market to cover maternity care.

The NWLC study "Turning to Fairness," released March 16, found that one insurance plan in Arkansas charges 25-year-old women 81 percent more than men for coverage. A similar plan in Arkansas charges women only 10 percent more.

All Arkansas plans currently rate by gender, according to the study. Other facts turned up:

Sixty percent of the best-selling insurance plans in Arkansas charge non-smoking women more than men who smoke.

The gap shrinks but does not close with age: Some plans charge 40-year-old women 55 percent more than 40-year-old men and women age 55 pay 9 percent more.

The study found plans that charged women age 40 up to $544 more a year.

No individual plans cover maternity in Arkansas, but 28 offer riders costing between $15 and $255.95 a month.

The study found that gender rating also occurs in the group market; women who work for businesses with a majority female workforce are routinely charged more for group coverage.

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