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Challenge filed to state-sanctioned sex, marital status discrimination in insurance ratemaking

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News from Upper Seven Law Firm

HELENA — Several individuals and organizations filed suit Wednesday to invalidate House Bill 379, a law that allows insurance companies to discriminate on the basis of sex and marital status when setting insurance premium rates for Montanans.  

For nearly 40 years, Montana has barred insurance companies from using sex and marital status to set insurance rates. Now, individuals across Montana, including the plaintiffs, will face discriminatory insurance practices. Worse, they will be barred from any remedy for that discrimination. While Montanans who face sex- and marital status-based discrimination generally may file a complaint under the Montana Human Rights Act, HB 379 closes the door on claims of discrimination in insurance ratemaking.

Legislators claimed that HB 379 would be good for women in particular but failed to examine the data closely. In fact, when sex is considered, women are often subject to higher rates. Perhaps even more concerning, insurance rates are arbitrarily discriminatory when based solely on sex and marital status, leading to inconsistent and contradictory rate determinations. As a result, both men and women face unpredictable discrimination in different insurance markets.

“I expect to pay insurance premiums that take into account my driving record or my claims history. But being a woman or unmarried just isn’t relevant to any assessment of risk,” said Kiah Abbey. “Institutional sexism already costs women through smaller paychecks—for the state to actively condone sexism adds insult to injury.”

“As a small business owner and building contractor working in the town where I was born, I believe in treating each and every client honestly and fairly,” said Will Randall. “I’ve been paying premiums for car, home, and business insurance for decades. For insurance companies to be able to raise my rates now, only because of my sex or marital status, makes no sense at all.”

The Montana Constitution expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and broadly protects against treating people differently based on irrational classifications. It also prohibits granting special favors through legislation—like giving insurance providers a free pass to discriminate, while banning it in other contexts. 

“I was proud when Montana first took a stand against insurance discrimination,” said Diane Sands. “Montana led the nation then and has ensured equality in insurance for nearly 40 years. Moving backward now is not only unwise, but also violates the Montana Constitution.”

Niki Zupanic and Rylee Sommers-Flanagan of Upper Seven Law and Kimberly Dudik of Kimberly Dudik & Associates represent the plaintiffs.


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