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In our view / Financial discrimination


What really hurts women

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All the hubbub a few weeks ago about stay-at-home moms and working moms is just the sort of rubbish that keeps women from making gains where it counts: in the pocketbook.
As long as women engage in arguments and attacks against each other, they can't unite to fight actual wrongs, such as discrimination built into the economic system that legally makes it more expensive to be female than male. It's not just that women are paid less, it's also that they have to pay more for goods and services.
It doesn't matter if you're Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (or Condoleezza Rice before her), she and all other American women are charged more for just about everything -- from disposable razors to mortgages -- than men are.
An excellent article by Lea Goldman in the magazine "Marie Claire" and posted online by MSN.com, titled, "Why Women Pay More," provides example after example where women are charged more than men, or don't get discounts offered to men. As Goldman writes: "Sounds like blatant discrimination, right? It is, and yet it's perfectly legal. Though civil rights laws prohibit job and housing discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation, there's no federal law banning discrimination in the sale of goods and services."
Several cities and states have adopted their own anti-discrimination statutes, Goldman reports, but they are often vague and filled with loopholes. The author urges a federal anti-discrimination law, which makes sense.
Don't think it's necessary? How about this: When it comes to health insurance, Goldman reports, "an estimated 95 percent of insurers practice 'gender rating,' resulting in hundreds of dollars in higher costs for women, according to the National Women's Law Center. For example, a fit 25-year-old woman looking to buy an individual plan can be charged up to 45 percent more than a 25-year-old man, even when her policy excludes maternity care. More infuriating: Women who don't smoke often pay higher premiums than men who do.
And here's something that may get men's attention: When it comes to group insurance plans -- the kind your company usually provides -- it is illegal for an employer to set different prices for male and female employees. But if your firm employs more women than men, insurers can subvert that law by jacking up everyone's premiums, Goldman reported.
Outraged yet?
The article notes that women aren't up in arms about this proven discrimination, and so it continues. Maybe they simply don't know the shocking truth. Share the news.
People can drop their local representative a line demanding a federal law outlawing gender pricing at marieclaire.com/womenpaymore.

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