By: Ali Elyaman and Mathilde Carpet
Representative Spencer Frye has decided to revive House Bill 786 from the 2017-2018 legislative session. This bill will expand discrimination protections in the insurance realm to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Under current Georgia law, insurance companies are able to raise rates on these victims by classifying them as more risk-averse because of their harmful experiences. Under the legislation Representative Frye is proposing, victims would no longer be able to have their rates raised or be denied coverage because of claims due to injuries stemming from acts of family violence, sexual assault, or sexual abuse.
The Women’s Law Project issued a report in which the organization analyzed the prevalence of insurance discrimination among victims of domestic violence. When applying for insurance, many applicants sign a waiver which allows the insurance companies to access medical records in order to assess the costs and risks associated with the applicant. Victims of domestic violence are increasingly encouraged to report abuse to physicians and the police in order to better track injuries and such. However, this has the effect of creating a risk category for the victims, which can lead to either denial of coverage or an increase in price of coverage. The victims then have to choose whether to pursue justice for themselves or be able to receive affordable insurance.1
There are numerous reports of women being told that they would be denied coverage relating to their ‘pre-existing condition’ of being victims of domestic violence. Any costs associated with their mental health treatment or physical needs in terms of recovering from any injuries incurred would not be covered.
There are also difficulties in obtaining auto and homeowners insurance, especially if there have been previous instances of destruction of property by their assaulter. Some of the claims that insurance companies have justified for using domestic violence as an underwriting criteria include: being a victim is a lifestyle choice and using insurance provides a motive for victims to leave their abuser, domestic violence is a risk factor that has additional costs, and insuring the life of the victim gives the abuser an incentive to kill the victim and collect on the policy. 2
House bill 786 is incredibly important for making sure all of the citizens of our state are treated fairly and with respect by our insurance providers. The state of Georgia has a moral obligation to ensure protections for the brave victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. This bill will pave the way for a fair system by outlawing the financial punishments on people affected by these crimes.