Insurance Companies’ Discriminatory Underwriting Guidelines in United states

Insurance Companies’ Discriminatory Underwriting Guidelines in United states

Insurance Companies‘ Discriminatory Underwriting Guidelines in United states :

The method through which members of the insurance business select who they would cover is referred to as underwriting guidelines. Because insurance is based on risk, insurers develop a set of rules to determine when they will accept that risk and give insurance to a new client, what rates to charge, and when potential consumers become too dangerous to cover.

Although it is unlawful for corporations to utilize race in their guidelines as a form of “unfair discrimination,” recommendations do require the use of specific information about persons in order to assess risk factors and establish prices. This implies that discrimination is both essential and lawful.

Redlining, which has prohibited non-Whites from gaining access to property ownership, relied on government underwriting rules and has led to the country’s widening racial wealth disparity. 2 Questions regarding what constitutes unjust discrimination have gotten a lot of attention in recent years, notably after the death of George Floyd sparked demonstrations.

Discrimination that already exists :

In response to the George Floyd demonstrations, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the industry’s standard-setting body, organized a special session on race to examine the relationship between insurance and racial prejudice. While overt racial discrimination has decreased in recent years, members claim that subtle kinds of prejudice still exist, particularly in the use of big data. 3 Furthermore, as mentioned below, long-standing discriminatory practices such as redlining and racial premiums have allegedly continued to impact the business into the twenty-first century, according to lawsuits and investigations.

The categories listed here aren’t all-inclusive. Health insurance, for example, has been a source of prejudice, especially after federal laws such as the 2020 “Nondiscrimination in Health and Education Programs or Activities, Delegation of Authority” have been enacted. This judgment has been criticized by California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, among others, as a barrier to LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, and anybody whose first language is not English being able to receive healthcare.

Types of Discrimination : 

The use of risk profiles in underwriting rules is a kind of discrimination. They are designed to classify people into high-risk and low-risk groups in order to determine how much an insurance company should charge for a premium and to encourage consumers to minimize their risky habits. While this is allowed, the history of underwriting is littered with cases of prejudice that is deemed undesirable, referred to as unjust discrimination.

Unfair discrimination is prohibited in underwriting standards under American law. Unfair discrimination refers to rules that target protected groups like race, national origin, gender, or religious belief. Discrimination may take many forms, ranging from providing poorer insurance coverage to simply refusing to reply to insurance applicants based on their perceived qualities.


According to Susan T. Stead of Squire Patton Boggs, LLP, “unfair discrimination” and “disparate effect” are legally different ideas in discussions concerning algorithmic modeling in insurance.
According to Stead, disparate impact is a legal approach for proving discrimination in the absence of “overt discrimination” against a protected class, and it dates back to a Supreme Court judgment from 1971. Unfair discrimination, on the other hand, occurs when the same risks are addressed differently due to a factor that has nothing to do with risk; it is illegal in every jurisdiction.

Antidiscrimination rules “range a considerable lot” by state and among insurance kinds, according to a legal analysis published by the University of Michigan Law School in 2013. It also stated that a “surprising” number of counties lack explicit legislation against unfair racial discrimination, implying that the federal government may need to play a bigger role in regulating race-based insurance discrimination.

Important Moments in the History of Underwriting Guidelines Discrimination Redlining and Housing

Redlining, a kind of discrimination that has gained widespread attention in recent years due to its ongoing impact on inequality, dates back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration.

During this time, the federal government began to support house mortgage insurance as part of its effort to expand the White middle class and improve housing availability. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), founded in 1934, used color-coded maps from the Home Owners Loan Corp. to define the related degrees of risk for investments in every particular neighborhood, classifying communities of color as too dangerous for mortgage insurance. In other words, they diverted resources away from communities of color, such as loans and insurance.

The FHA’s underwriting rules would openly indicate that these maps are racially biased, such as the remark that “incompatible racial groupings should not be permitted to dwell in the same neighborhoods.” These maps, along with racially restrictive covenants that barred people of color from entering areas, had disastrous consequences that can still be seen today.

Several additional initiatives in this region would particularly address redlining. The 1968 Fair Housing Act, which was approved under duress following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s killing, outlawed racial redlining. The 1965 Housing and Urban Development Act created grants for low-income homeowners, as well as rent discounts for the elderly and physically challenged, increased access to public housing, and preferential financing for military veterans. The 1975 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act requires lenders to publish census data related to their lending (HMDA).

Despite this, there are claims that prejudice continues to exist in the workplace. A series of cases filed in New York, for example, claimed that redlining tactics persisted into the twenty-first century.

Life Insurance and Race :

According to an essay published in the Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy by Mary L. Heen, life insurance has a history of perpetuating racial inequalities in the United States. She claims that during Reconstruction, the insurance business used high death rates and intrinsic racial disparities to justify life insurance that provided just two-thirds of the benefits to freed enslaved people.

When it came to determining premium rates, companies with racial premiums tended to overlook any facts that didn’t suit established hierarchies, such as the fact that women had a lower death rate, implying that the risk involved was not the primary driving reason. (In 1958, the Travelers Insurance Business, according to NAIC librarians, would become the first company to offer life insurance at a cheaper premium for women than for males.)

Such behaviors persisted far into the twentieth century. For example, the NAIC released a report in 1940 that looked at death rates by race, which insurers used to determine race-based premiums. 16 According to NIAC-affiliated librarians, the report would feed discriminatory underwriting policies until the use of race was outlawed.

At the time, insurers had two rate books, one for Blacks and one for whites, who were primarily obtaining “industrial life insurance” to pay burial costs. 17 According to George Nichols III, president and CEO of the American College of Financial Services, the plans given to Blacks not only covered less, but they were also more expensive, with premiums ranging from 30% to 40% more.

Race-based premiums remained lawful until 1964, under the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, when the Civil Rights Act was passed in response to demand from civil rights advocates. 18 Since 2000, the insurance sector has paid out $556 million in fines and reparations in connection with litigation involving millions of race-based premiums sold over the twentieth century.

Conclusion : 

NAIC members in attendance at the 2020 race session recommended a number of strategies for addressing existing inequalities, including increasing minority representation in the industry, educating consumers, and regulating big data to ensure transparency, protect privacy, and prevent discrimination. In addition, the NAIC has formed a special committee to address these concerns.

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