As the health care reform debate has heated up in Washington, the issue of age rating insurance policies has been raised. The question is “will people be charged more for their health insurance because they are older?” OWL has come out strongly with a clear “NO”! To do that would be to discriminate against older people just because they are older. We have long stood against age and gender discrimination.
Here is how the debate is unfolding. Insurance companies now charge people more as they get older because they see that older people use (need) more health care services and therefore the company must pay out more. The companies charge a 55 to 65 year-old up to five times as much as a younger person just because of age. Logical? Maybe if you are an insurance company, but let’s look deeper.
The whole point of insurance is to spread the risk of needing to pay for medical care among people who will need it and people who won’t. That is what makes it insurance. If you lump all high users together you are not spreading the risk but putting it all on those who need the care.
Putting 55 to 65 year-olds in one risk pool increases the cost for that age group and essentially means that healthy 55 to 65 year olds support the ill 55 to 65 year-olds. All healthy people should help pay for those who need care because at anytime we might be the ones who need the care.
We, as a society, recognized that putting all people 65 and older into one pool would make insurance unaffordable for those over 65 so we created Medicare and a funding mechanism that spread the cost over the whole population. As we expand health insurance to all, we need to maintain that principle. Discriminating on gender or age should be a policy of the past.
Ellen A. Bruce
Immediate Past President, OWL Board of Directors