Healthcare insurers told Congress yesterday they will stop charging women higher rates for health insurance coverage. Ending this discriminatory practice will create a fairer marketplace.

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Civil disagreements with Lynne Varner and Bruce Ramsey, members of the Seattle Times editorial board is a weekly feature of the Ed Cetera blog. Bruce and Lynne often disagree on major issues. Here they discuss the practice of insurance companies charging women more than men for individual health insurance.

Lynne Varner, left, and Bruce Ramsey

Lynne Varner: Bruce: Equality finally reaches the health care industry! Healthcare insurers told Congress yesterday they will stop charging women higher rates for health insurance coverage. Ending this discriminatory practice will create a fairer marketplace.

Health care costs for women tend to be higher during childbearing years. But insurers have ways of spreading the costs so they don’t fall discriminately in one area.

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Bruce, you and I are lucky because like most Americans we are covered through employer plans that are required to offer a broad range of benefits and are prohibited from charging more to those in poor health. But higher premiums mainly affect women who are buying coverage on their own. The practice of charging them more made heatlh care less accessible and affordable.

President Obama and Congress believe this is the year for health care overhaul. Hearing that the insurance industry has backed away from its unfair practice of charging women more, I can almost believe it.

Bruce Ramsey: Lynne, you seem to begin with a presumption that any time women have to pay more than men, that’s “discrimination,” which has to be rubbed out in favor of “equality.” But why is discrimination bad and equality good? Is equality good always, or only some of the time? What makes it good?

Consider: Men pay more for women for life insurance. The reason is that on average, men die sooner than women. Is the different pricing discrimination? It seems so. Should it be banned?

Similarly, women pay less for car insurance than men, because women, not being pumped up with testosterone, get into fewer wrecks. Is that discrimination? Yes. Surely it is. Should it be banned?

I don’t think this discrimination should be banned because there is a legitimate reason for it. In the matter of life expectancy and driving safety, women have natural advantages over men, and these advantages flow through to them in the marketplace and benefit them financially. Given that you want to keep your gender’s advantages–why should I agree to give up mine?

If you allow sex discrimination in life insurance and car insurance, why would you ban it in health insurance? It seems to me that you accept when it favors women, and want to prohibit it when it favors men.

I’m a gentleman, but there are limits.