Christine Stuart photo

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal along with Teresa Younger, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, called for gender equity in health insurance coverage Tuesday.

The duo testified in favor of a bill which would prohibit health care insurers from using gender as one of the criteria for determining the rates it charges for individual health insurance. They said a dozen other states already prohibit the use of gender in setting insurance rates.

A recent study by the National Women’s Law Center found women under the age of 40 pay between 6 and 48 percent more in individual insurance costs than their male counterparts.

“There’s a huge disparity just because they were born women,” Younger said.

“Gender equity is a matter of law in 12 states,” Blumenthal said. “Discrimination based on gender should be as illegal as it would be on the basis of race or religion.”

He said there’s no evidence that the health insurance companies in the 12 states that prohibit using gender as a factor when setting insurance rates have not been put out of business or had their business effected in any way. In fact those states include all of Connecticut’s neighbors, such as New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New Jersey.

“Connecticut should be embarrassed,” Blumenthal said.

“The assumption is that all women will have children and so that cost is higher,” Younger said. “Some women deciding to have children should not be the reason that premium costs are higher.”

Women should have the same access to health insurance at the same costs as men, Younger said.

But doesn’t the insurance industry discriminate when it comes to automobile insurance for male teenage drivers?

“We’re not talking about 17 year olds as compared to others. We’re talking about gender and we’re talking about health insurance,” Blumenthal said. “These distinctions are based on myths and misconceptions that are outdated and in any event should change because they are unfair.”

“There are distinctions based on where people live. There are all kinds of distinctions that the law makes some of them are permissible, some are not,” Blumenthal said. “Distinctions based on race and religion are impermissible. Distinctions based on equity should be equally illegitimate under our law,” Blumenthal said.