Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed state legislation earlier this week that will prohibit health insurers in California from charging premiums based on gender.

“Gender rating” has made it so women who purchase individual health insurance pay monthly premiums up to 39 percent higher than men in a similar situation, according to a statement from the San Francisco city attorney’s office.

Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against the state claiming that insurers base their premiums on gender and deny women equal protection under the California Constitution.

“This law will end discriminatory treatment of women in the individual health insurance market, and help more than a million Californians obtain affordable coverage,” Herrera said.

“It offers a much-needed assist to our already overburdened public health system, and, of course, it averts the need for our litigation challenging the practice of gender rating. I applaud Gov. Schwarzenegger’s decision.”

Louis Dettorre can be reached at