News Releases

Murray Examines Double Standard in Coverage for Women at Hearing with Top Insurance Lobbyist

Oct 15 2009

Murray addresses women's health care advocates and the health insurance industry's top lobbyist on why women pay higher premiums for care and are discriminated against using pregnancy, C-sections, and domestic abuse as pre-existing conditions

Listen  to Senator Murray's opening statement

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke before a range of health care representatives including Karen Ignani, President of the Association of Health Insurance Plans – a top health insurance lobbyist – questioning why insurance companies continue to charge women nearly 50 percent more than men in the insurance market. Senator Murray also examined why women continue to be refused coverage by insurance companies that use pregnancy, C-sections, and domestic abuse as pre-existing conditions.

Senator Murray told the story of Marcelas Owens, a young man she met from Washington state whose mother died when she was not able to afford health insurance coverage.
As the Senate works toward comprehensive health care reform, the hearing served to highlight some of the ways reform will help women including: ending discrimination for gender or preexisting conditions, improved coverage for women’s preventive care and screenings, limiting out-of-pocket expenses, and eliminating lifetime and annual insurance caps.

Senator Murray has been outspoken on this issue in the Senate. Last week, she spoke on the floor highlighting the benefits of health insurance reform for women.

Murray also recently reintroduced her bill that would provide financial protections to victims of domestic abuse, including banning the health insurance company practice of considering abuse to be a pre-existing condition.

Senator Murray’s full opening statement follow:

“Thank you, Senator Mikulski, for holding this hearing.

“And thanks to all of our colleagues for attending to discuss a topic that impacts not only women, but families and entire communities.  

“Because when the rising cost of health insurance hurts women, it hurts our nation.

“And for the millions of women across America who open the mail each month to see premiums go up, who can’t get needed preventative care like mammograms because the co-pays are too much, who work part time or for a small business that doesn’t provide insurance, who can’t get covered for critical maternity care, or who are forced to stay in abusive relationships because if they leave, they or their children will lose health care coverage…We are their voice.   And today we are asking the questions that women and families and businesses across America are asking.

“Many of you in this room have heard me tell the story of a little boy named Marcelas Owens from my home state of Washington whose mom, Tifanny, got sick and lost her life because of the high cost of health insurance.

“Tifanny was a single mom who felt strongly about working to support her three children.  She had health care coverage through her job at a fast food restaurant.   But, in September of 2006 she got sick and started to miss a lot of work.

“Her employer gave her an ultimatum: make up the lost time or lose your jobs. Well, because of her illness, Tifanny physically couldn’t make up the time and she lost her job and with it went her insurance.

 “As we have seen time and time again, women are charged nearly 50 percent more than men in the insurance market – and with a pre-existing condition it would be almost impossible to get coverage anyway.

“Without the coverage and care she needed, in June of 2007, Tifanny lost her life and Marcelas and his sisters lost their mom. Our health care system is broken.

“It’s broken for women and moms like Tifanny who work to provide for their families burt are charged nearly 50 percent more than men for health care in the individual market.

“It’s broken for women who are denied coverage or charged more for “Pre-Existing Conditions” like “Pregnancy,” “C-Sections,” or “domestic violence.”

“It’s broken when insurance companies charge women of child-bearing age more than men but still don’t cover maternity care.   Or only offer it for hefty additional premiums.

“The status quo isn’t working. Women and their families and businesses need health insurance reform now.

“Reform will help women by ending discrimination based on gender-rating or gender-biased pre existing conditions, covering maternity care, covering preventative care and screenings – including mammograms and well-baby care, expanding access to coverage even if an employer doesn’t offer it and making family health decisions - which are frequently made by women - easier by setting up a health insurance exchange

“So, for women across this country, and for their families, our businesses, snd our nation’s future strength, we have to reform our health insurance system this year.

“I want to thank Senator Mikulski again for her dedication to this issue and I look forward to hearing from all of today’s witnesses.”