Swalm leads defense of men at health insurance hearing

Rep. Spencer Swalm, R-Centennial, led the charge Thursday defending the rights of men to continue to pay less as a group on the individual health-insurance market in Colorado. Swalm is a member of the Health and Human Services committee that was weighing a bill aimed to ease wide inequalities in the cost of insurance for men and women in Colorado. The bill was sponsored by Reps Beth McCann, D-Denver, and Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge.

“Men are having the toughest time finding work, so this is going to make it even harder for them to pay for insurance,” Swalm said. He later told the Colorado Independent that outside of the legislature, he worked as an insurance broker.

Rep. Spencer Swalm
Rep. Spencer Swalm

Swalm energetically engaged committee members as well as people who cam to testify in favor of the bill, including Jerry McElroy, a spokesperson for national health care provider Kaiser Permanente. The only insurance company representative to speak at the hearing, McElroy said his company had decided to end gender discrimination costs in 1969 and that, contrary to the fears being expressed in the current debate, Kaiser had suffered no significant loss of revenue as a result.

“We’re doing just fine,” McElroy told the committee.

Swalm asked the committee to also consider ending age ratings for male teenage drivers, who pay higher car-insurance rates than female drivers. He said that was also an example of gender discrimination.

Division of Insurance Commissioner Marsy Morrison, one of 11 people to speak in favor of the bill, said the individual insurance market is expanding as layoffs continue and as the U.S. workforce moves away from company jobs. She said the bill would initially raise premiums for privately insured men if gender equality becomes mandated, but added that “the time has come to equalize the situation.

“The insurance companies have decided to stay out of this discussion, but I think they understand our changing society. The individual market is growing. When I came into the job as commissioner it was at 3.5 percent. Now it’s at 6 percent. It’s not a big market yet but I predict it will be a growing market, and we should be dealing with it.”

Women pay more for existing plans, even though none of the plans in Colorado include maternity coverage. An Anthem insurance personal plan in Colorado, for example, does not cover any maternity or prenatal care. Yet a women carrying the plan pays more than $120 more than a male under the same plan, even if the male is older. The woman simply pays more for being a woman as a category. As the Colorado Independent has reported, male smokers pay less than women nonsmokers.

Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, joined Swalm in her concern for male insurance consumers.

Swalm voted against the bill. Roberts voted in favor of the bill, which passed eight votes to two.

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