As health care reform muddled through Congress Tuesday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and women’s health experts spoke about the discrimination women face from health insurance companies.

DeLauro, who talked before a group of about 25 at the Graduate Club on Elm Street, said women’s issues have been left out of the debate in the media over health care reform. But, if passed, the health care bill will end many discriminatory practices against women, she said.

“These are important women’s issues that haven’t seen the light of day in the media,” DeLauro said.

The health care bill, she explained, should end health insurance companies’ discriminatory practices such as gender rating, in which women pay up to 48 percent more than men on similar health insurance policies. The bill should also stop health insurance companies from disqualifying people who have preexisting conditions from receiving health coverage; women who face domestic violence or have Cesarean sections are currently disqualified under these provisions, DeLauro said.

DeLauro, who represents Connecticut’s Third Congressional District, which includes New Haven, said she expects the health care bill — projected to cost $829 billion over 10 years — to pass by the end of the calendar year.

Women’s Health Research at Yale Director Carolyn Mazure, who spoke after DeLauro, said women cost more to insure than men. Because most research studies generalize for men’s experiences, she said, women are more likely to receive ineffective care at doctors’ offices and hospitals.

Teresa Younger, the executive director of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Permanent Standing Committee on the Status of Women, said central to the health care debate is the idea that women get access to reproductive care.

“Women must be able to choose when to start their own families,” Younger said.

Three people in attendance said they were in support of DeLauro’s advocacy for women’s health issues. New Haven resident Susan McLaughlin said women do not get adequate political representation at the highest levels of government.

“There is a bias in leadership of this country against women,” McLaughlin said.

Elizabeth Cafarella, the public policy director at the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services Inc., said she attended the forum to get an overview of the progress of the health care legislation in Congress.

Several hours after DeLauro spoke, the Senate Committee on Finance voted 14–9 to approve a version of the health care reform bill. The version, which was spearheaded by Sen. Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, represents months of effort to try to build bipartisan consensus on health care reform.