opinion Newport Rhode Island

By V. Susan Sosnowski and William J. Conley, Jr.

On February 11, the Rhode Island Senate unanimously passed legislation, SB 2125, prohibiting health insurers from charging women more for their health insurance. Again. In fact, this legislation has passed the Senate by overwhelming margins for each of the past eight years.

Women have long been required to pay more than men for similar services and products, and not just with health insurance. However, equal rights includes equal costs as well as equal pay. It is incomprehensible that in 2020 we could allow providers to charge different premiums on the basis of a person’s gender. As a state, we should not tolerate sexism of any kind, particularly in economic matters. Sexism in healthcare is especially egregious, and it should not be allowed.

On July 23rd, the Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on budget Article 20 which pertains to healthcare reform. Part of that section of the proposed state budget codifies certain provisions including the essential benefits of the Affordable Care Act into Rhode Island law. However, the ACA only prohibits small group and individual health insurance coverage from discriminating based on one’s gender.

The Senate bill, SB 2125, goes further and prohibits discrimination in that coverage as well as discrimination based on gender in large group market health insurance (groups with 50 or more employees). The Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner wrote in support of the legislation on January 27, 2020 that “…enacting this legislation…will have limited impact on the large market.”

We are disappointed that the entirety of the gender rating bill is not included in Budget Article 20. Nevertheless, with the steadfast support of our Senate colleagues, we will continue our fight to end gender discrimination in healthcare in Rhode Island this year, either through inclusion in the budget or by passage of the Senate bill in the General Assembly.  

V. Susan Sosnowski is Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture, and sponsor of SB 2125. William J. Conley, Jr. is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.