Nondiscrimination in Insurance: The Next Chapter

77 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2014

See all articles by Mary L. Heen

Mary L. Heen

University of Richmond - School of Law

Date Written: December 11, 2014


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.

Keywords: civil rights law, insurance discrimination, actuarial fairness, unisex insurance rates, gender discrimination, race discrimination, risk classifications, anti-discrimination legislation, mortality rates, nineteenth century and twentieth century economic and legal history

Suggested Citation

Heen, Mary L., Nondiscrimination in Insurance: The Next Chapter (December 11, 2014). Georgia Law Review, Vol. 49, No. 1, 2014-2015. Available at SSRN:

Mary L. Heen (Contact Author)

University of Richmond - School of Law ( email )

28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States
804-289-8528 (Phone)
804-289-8683 (Fax)

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