Mary Heen Paper Asks: Should Insurers Be Able to Discriminate

Mary L. Heen of Richmond has written Nondiscrimination in Insurance:  The Next Chapter, 49 Georgia Law Review (2014-2015).  Here is the abstract:

For nearly 150 years, American insurance companies have engaged in race and gender pricing practices that would be illegal if followed today by any other major commercial enterprise.  The insurance industry has defended its long-standing practices, first for race and now for gender, based on ideas about insurance “equity” developed in the nineteenth century. The continued application of these ideas, and the practices that have resulted from them, conflict with fundamental civil rights principles and should not be tolerated as exceptions to our national civil rights laws.  As that history shows, classifications used by insurers to determine rates and benefits raise complex distributional, financial, and political issues that cannot be resolved simply as technical questions of actuarial risk or economics.  This Article proposes comprehensive federal civil rights legislation to ban discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex in insurance coverage, rates, and benefits. It explains why previous reform efforts have failed and why recent developments, including the adoption of unisex insurance rates in Europe, could make consideration of such legislation in the United States timely once again.

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