The editorial entitled “Insurance: Abuse Victims Are Denied”, which appeared in the October 9, 2009 edition of The Clarion-Ledger, requires a response.
In the 2001 Session of the Mississippi Legislature, the Mississippi Insurance Department worked closely with then House Insurance Committee Chairperson, Rep. Mary Ann Stevens, to sponsor four bills designed to prohibit unfair discrimination against the subjects of domestic abuse in the areas of health insurance, life insurance, disability income insurance and property and casualty insurance. These bills were based upon a model law adopted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which urged all states to seek their passage.
The four bills did not make it out of committee. In fairness, however, the Legislature found that the Insurance Department did not have one single example of an insurance company denying coverage or refusing to pay a claim of domestic violence victims in this State. To date, the Insurance Department still does not have any anecdotal evidence of discrimination against domestic violence victims by insurance companies doing business in Mississippi, nor have the domestic violence victim advocates we have worked with indicated there was a problem in this area. The citizens of Mississippi should rest assured that as their Commissioner, I would not tolerate an insurance company refusing to cover or to pay benefits to a person solely because they had been a victim of domestic violence.
Most importantly, it should be noted that there are already statutes on the books in Mississippi that would allow me to investigate and stop these discriminatory practices should they occur. The Unfair Trade Practices Act, codified at Mississippi Code Annotated § 83-5-29 et seq. (Rev. 1999), gives me the tools to address these issues. Any Mississippi residents who feel that they have been denied coverage or benefits due to domestic violence should contact the Insurance Department’s consumer assistance line at 1-800-562-2957.
In closing, I hasten to add that if the Legislature chooses to revisit the bills that were introduced in 2001, the Mississippi Insurance Department will be very supportive of those efforts. I am presently working with legislators and the legislative legal staff to reintroduce statutory changes. While we currently have effective laws to address discrimination against victims of domestic violence in the business of insurance, the adoption of these more specific bills would help to ensure that this does not become a problem in the future.
Commissioner of Insurance
Clarion Ledger LTE