Gender Equity Bill Signed, Ensuring Fair Coverage in Disability Insurance

BOSTON — A bill filed by State Representative Ruth Balser and State Senator Jason Lewis to prevent gender discrimination in disability insurance was signed into law Thursday by Governor Charlie Baker.

In the state-regulated individual insurance market, women pay more than men for the same disability insurance benefits. Filings with the Division of Insurance show that women in Massachusetts pay more for the same disability insurance benefits than men in the same occupation class. This is true across the board, regardless of the insurance company, the age of the purchaser, the occupation class, the duration of benefits, whether long-term or short-term disability insurance. In every case, women pay more. On average, women pay 23.5% more than men. However, sometimes it is even more than that. Under some policies, women pay 61% more than men.

The bill prohibits insurers from charging higher disability insurance premiums based solely on gender, race, religion, or national origin. Currently, state-regulated disability insurance is classified by sex, and filings at the Division of Insurance show different premiums for men and women with the same job classification. For example, male nurses pay less than female nurses for the same disability policy. The new law will address this disparity.

“Women’s rights groups have been working to eliminate gender discrimination in insurance since the 1970s when Massachusetts adopted the Equal Rights amendment to the state constitution.  Slowly and incrementally, Massachusetts has eliminated gender disparities in most insurance products including automobile, homeowners, health, and annuities,” said Representative Ruth Balser, the lead House sponsor of the bill. “Today we have eliminated the unfair practice of charging women more than men for the same disability protection.  Many thanks to the large coalition of groups led by the Mass Commission on the Status of Women, the legislature, and the Governor for insisting that Massachusetts continues to lead when it comes to ensuring equality for all.”

“On the long march to gender equality, the passage of this bill is another step forward,” said Senator Jason Lewis, the bill’s lead sponsor in the state Senate. “Thank you to Rep. Balser and the advocates who worked tirelessly for many years to pass this legislation; it will improve fairness and lower insurance premiums for tens of thousands of women in Massachusetts.”

Nina Kimball, the Chair of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, said: “The Commission on the Status of Women commends Governor Baker for signing this bill that will finally bring equality to women purchasing disability insurance, ensuring an end to gender discriminatory pricing in the Commonwealth — which for years have prevented many women from being able to afford disability insurance that could protect them and their families when a medical crisis arises.

“MA has much to be proud of in the passage of the Equitable Disability Insurance Bill,” Kimball continued. “We are only the second state in the nation to eliminate gender discrimination in disability insurance. This is no small feat. And no small change for women of the Commonwealth. Now instead of having to make the horrifying decision to risk economic stability because insurance costs are out of reach, women will be able to protect themselves and their families. Women will be able to care for themselves and ensure economic security for their families at the most vulnerable time of illness and injury.”