Suit Claims ?Good Health? Status Discriminates

July 26, 2001 ( ? The Sacramento-based Californians for Disability Rights is suing Bank of America and Provident Insurance, alleging they discriminate against the disabled by asking unfair health questions and denying them life insurance.

While the challenge is targeted at the banks solicitation of clients, plan sponsors who offer employees access to life insurance outside the employer’s own policy might find themselves in similar circumstances.

Good Health

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the suit claims that a Bank of America letter advertises free life insurance of up to $1,000 through Provident Insurance, as well as additional life insurance for monthly payments, to customers who pass the bank’s “Good Health Statement.”

However, to achieve this status, customers must verify that they haven’t been treated by a doctor in the last five years for problems of the:

  • heart or circulatory system
  • lungs or respiratory system
  • stomach or digestive system
  • liver or kidneys
  • and brain or nervous system

Additionally, the bank’s customers can’t have been treated for cancer, AIDS, HIV or diabetes to be eligible for the plan.

New Approach

The plaintiff’s lawyers claim that insurance industry is relying on “outmoded data,” according to the report falsely linking low life expectancies with those who have disabilities. In contrast, they cite another insurance solicitation that asks only:

  • has the person been hospitalized for diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease
  • does the person smoke
  • does the person participate in a “hazardous” hobby, like piloting or scuba diving?