LTC insurance adjustment: Smart business move or blatant sexism?

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor
There's an adage about insurance coverage: While the big print giveth, the small print taketh away.

Genworth Financial — one of the nation's largest long-term care insurance carriers – is giving the phrase a new twist. The firm plans to remove same-price coverage for new policyholders of the female persuasion. As several media outlets have reported, women can soon expect to pay premiums that are 20%-to-40% higher than those of their male counterparts.

Genworth is defending the move as a commonsense adjustment. Women receive two-thirds of the claim dollars that are eventually paid out, the company insists. There's certainly precedent for charging people more when they are likely to be more aggressive consumers. After all, a case of soda costs more than a single can.

But I can't help but think that Genworth is asking for trouble here.

We live in a country where women are routinely discriminated against in obvious and subtle ways. Take earnings: Women who work full-time jobs one year after receiving their college degrees now earn 82 cents for every dollar men earn, according to a report from the American Association of University Women.

And I've yet to see a John Boehner or Harry Reed subjected to the same wardrobe-choice sniping as Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama. What's going on here other than sexism?

Speaking of double standards, we still live in a society that considers certain duties “women's' work.” You probably see this every day when family members seek a place at your community. Who's usually performing the visit? My guess is it's the oldest daughter.

Bonnie Burns said that while gender pricing may benefit insurers, “It's bad public policy and it's bad for women." Burns is a policy specialist at California Health Advocates, a Medicare advocacy group.

Other critics have noted that if the Affordable Care Act recognizes a gender bias in health insurance, it should offer a similar protection for long-term-care insurance.

At a time when many are questioning whether LTC insurance policies are even worth it, is this the kind of PR headache that Genworth wants to bring upon itself?

This is a questionable policy move, in more ways than one. Which reminds me of another adage the firm might want to keep in mind. Here's how it begins: Hell hath no fury …

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McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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