Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One step back

Tomorrow, the Massachusetts House is scheduled to vote on  H 889, An Act Relative to Savings Bank Life Insurance, a proposal that would permit Savings Bank Life Insurance Co. (SBLI) to charge different rates for life insurance for men and women.  As a Massachusetts-chartered company, SBLI is prohibited from charging different rates based on gender. SBLI, which hands tens of billions of dollars of Massachusetts life insurance policies, has argued that it faces a competitive disadvantage with other Massachusetts companies and out-of-state firms that aren't held to the same standard.

While it is true that women often live longer than men, there are other biological differences that are considered discriminatory and barred from consideration in insurance underwriting. For example, Asians have the longest life expectancy out of any racial group; however, federal law doesn't allow for race to be considered factor. This bill would create a slippery slope in addressing inequalities because we can not choose where to draw those distinctions.

Rep. Ruth Balser wrote to her House colleagues on Monday arguing to reject this measure: “The company is the most successful life insurance company in the state,” she wrote in an email to all House members and staff. “But if there is a competitive disadvantage, the solution is to require that all life insurance be gender neutral, not to retreat from a historic commitment to equality.”  (via State House News registration required)

Well said, Rep. Balser.  Let's hope the House heeds your wise words and this measure is rejected tomorrow and discriminatory language is kept out of life insurance.

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