by Kelli Garcia, Fellow,
National Women's Law Center

While federal health care reform has been grabbing headlines, state health care reform initiatives continue to move forward. On Monday, March 29th when Governor Bill Ritter signs HB 1008 into law, Colorado will become the 13th state to ban gender rating in the individual market (Colorado already bans gender rating in the small group market). When insurance companies gender rate they use gender to determine premiums, typically charging women more than men for the exact same coverage.

The National Women Law Center was instrumental in helping pass Colorado HB 1008. NWLC Senior Counsel Lisa Codispoti testified in both Colorado’s House and Senate in support of the bill. The National Women’s Law Center’s reports, Nowhere to Turn and Still Nowhere to Turn, also played a crucial role in highlighting the cost disparities that existed for women in Colorado. These reports, which examined insurance practices in state capitals, found, for example, that seven of the 10 best-selling plans in Denver charged 30-year old non-smoking women higher premiums than 30-year-old male smokers, with women being charged up to 48% more. This difference cannot be explained by maternity-related costs. None of the plans included maternity coverage.

The recently passed federal health reform bill will ban gender rating in the individual and small group markets by 2014. States should not wait, though. The 37 states that currently do not ban gender rating in the individual market and the 36 states that do not ban gender rating in the small group market should do so before the 2014 deadline. 

Hats off to Colorado for taking this important step forward to end the harmful and discriminatory practice of gender rating!