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NOW Alleges Health Coverage Discrimination

February 26, 1987|ROXANE ARNOLD | Times Staff Writer

Claiming that women are discriminated against by insurance companies that charge them higher rates for health coverage, the National Organization for Women filed a lawsuit Wednesday against State Farm Insurance Co. asking for a halt to what it calls this "intentional, arbitrary and illegal practice."

The action, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by NOW and one of its members insured by State Farm, claims the insurance company charges women rates that are as much as 65% higher than those it charges men for essentially the same coverage.

"From our perspective, it's discriminatory and it's not fair," said attorney Lisa Foster of the Center for Law in the Public Interest, which filed the action on behalf of NOW and NOW member Estelle Kirsch.

"If we win this case, it goes beyond this particular company. It would affect the health insurance industry in California."

Higher Premium

Attorneys for State Farm could not be reached for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Kirsch, 39, purchased a standard Hospital-Surgical policy from State Farm in November, 1984, covering a six-month period beginning the following January. Her premium was $564.60. A man purchasing a similar policy would have paid $344.90, the suit claims.

Moreover, the suit alleges that the policy Kirsch purchased excluded coverage for expenses associated with pregnancy and childbirth even though she was of child-bearing age.

Although several major insurers in California, including Blue Cross and most major Health Maintenance Organizations offer unisex rates, "plenty of other companies have sex-based rates," Foster said. "We hope to end that."

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