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As Long as We Remember...

October 9, 2009

Cheap Political Tricks

Joe Charlebois

Newsflash: According to Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, men and women are the same! This past weekend Senator Mikulski excoriated the insurance industry for treating men and women differently. She noted that women can pay much more for healthcare insurance than a man of the same age.


If Ms. Mikulski spent even one day in the presence of an insurance underwriter, she may understand why there are different rates for men and women, young and old, smokers and non-smokers. Then again she is a politician and may understand how risk is determined, but still insists on misleading her constituents to produce outrage at the expense of a legitimate business.


Senator! Health insurance is a business not unlike auto insurance or homeowners insurance – where rates are based on the risk and extent of coverage.


Homeowners who live in southern Florida or along the North Carolina coast will pay higher rates than residents of Frederick, MD, for identical house coverage due to the annual risk associated with tropical storms and hurricanes. Owners of homes in the fire ravaged mountains and earthquake prone California pay much higher rates than their Frederick counterparts due to the areas’ higher risks.


Auto insurance is no different – those policyholders that own a new Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Porsche or BMW will pay substantially higher rates than an owner of Chevrolet Impala, Ford Mustang or Chrysler 300.


Health insurance is an insurance product. Rates are based on the age, sex, health history and use of tobacco. These aren’t arbitrary categories; there are actuarial reasons behind every rate. There are hundreds of years of experience that go into determining the rate of an individual or family. Contrary to the venom spewed by proponents of a single-payer system regarding the intentions of the insurance industry. The industry as a whole may take in large sums of income, the profit margins are thin. This industry is not an operation of charity and should not be treated as such.


Proponents of a single payer system claim that it is a moral right to provide healthcare for those who can’t afford it. As a nation we realize the importance of providing healthcare for this segment of our population. We already pay an ever increasing amount in taxes to pay for Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP. Prior to the advent of employer based health insurance, the nation was blessed with private Christian and community hospitals whose sole purpose was to provide care for the community with little regard to creating a profit. The profits didn’t come until healthcare insurance guaranteed a certain level of fees for a particular service.


Now, Senator Mikulski’s moral outrage has turned from mandatory coverage for all to a focus that low risk policyholders should shoulder the burden for those who carry higher risk. She posits that it is immoral to charge 25-year-old females higher premiums than 25-year-old males. She knowingly and recklessly is disregarding common sense.


Senator! Newsflash…men and women are different. They have different medical conditions and needs. Likewise costs associated with men and women differ greatly.


Insurance underwriters realize this and price coverage accordingly. There is no concerted effort to illegally discriminate against women. They are assigning appropriate risk based on years of claims experience.


As a Maryland resident, and constituent of Senator Mikulski, I am embarrassed that she would resort to such cheap political theatre.


There are many things that can be done to improve the current system. Raising rates on healthy, non-smoking, males does nothing to further the debate.


Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus….thank goodness.



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