CALLING FOR NONDISCRIMINATION IN INSURANCE PRACTICES AGAINST VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

WHEREAS, domestic violence is a problem of epidemic proportions which undermines the safety, security, health and well-being of women, children and the elderly[1];

WHEREAS, victims of abuse are most typically an invisible population, because victim intimidation, economic dependency, and societal mores often result in under reporting of abuse by victims, non-intervention by families, friends, social and legal institutions, and inaccurate treatment and diagnosis of abuse by health care providers[2];

WHEREAS, health care providers nationwide are being urged to adopt health care protocols which assist in identifying, diagnosing, documenting, treating and appropriately referring victims of abuse who seek medical care[3];

WHEREAS, some insurance companies deny coverage, fail to reimburse, or increase premium rates for health, life, or mortgage disability insurance to victims of domestic violence and that some self-insured employers exclude coverage or deny payment for domestic violence health care problems from their health insurance benefits plans[4];

WHEREAS, insurance policies or practices which deny or reduce insurance coverage to victims of domestic violence discourage victims from seeking necessary medical treatment, counseling, legal intervention and other forms of assistance, or from filing insurance claims, for fear that insurance companies will rely on such documentation to deny or reduce coverage or charge higher premium rates for such coverage;

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 1787 would amend the Pennsylvania Unfair Insurance Practices Act to specifically prohibit insurers from discriminating in insurance coverage to victims of domestic violence;

WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has demonstrated a commitment to expanding the legal remedies and other forms of assistance and protection available to victims of domestic violence;

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association is committed to helping victims of domestic violence and, passed a resolution in December, 1993 supporting amendments to the Protection From Abuse Act which afford victims of domestic violence and their minor children better protection and more comprehensive remedies;

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association is committed to policies which promote and defend civil rights, foster fair treatment of all individuals and reduce and eliminate wrongful discrimination;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association hereby:

  1. Expresses strong opposition to insurance practices which have a discriminatory impact on victims of domestic violence.
  2. Supports passage of amendments to the Pennsylvania Unfair Insurance Practices Act specifically prohibiting insurers from discriminating in insurance against victims of domestic violence. Senate Bill 1787 provides for such amendments and is attached hereto.
  3. Requests the Department of Insurance to immediately determine whether insurance companies doing business in Pennsylvania are engaging in practices which have a discriminatory impact on victims of domestic violence and, if such discrimination is found to exist, initiate all appropriate responses to stop such practices, including legal, legislative and regulatory responses.
  4. Authorizes and directs the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association to take whatever steps are necessary to effectuate this resolution, including the communication of this resolution to the Governor, to every member of the General Assembly, and to the Insurance Department.

1.  "Developments in the Law: Legal Responses to Domestic Violence" 106 Harv. L. Rev. 1498, 1501 (1993).

2. Majority Staff of United States Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, 102d Congress, 2d Sess., Violence Against Women: A Week in the Life of America 1, 31 (October 1992); Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, Physicians and Domestic Violence, Ethical Considerations, 267 JAMA 3190 (June 17, 1992).

3. American Medical Association Diagnostic and Treatment Guidelines on Domestic Violence, 1 Arch. Fam. Med. 3947 (September, 1992); Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, Physicians and DomesticViolence - Ethical Considerations, 267 3AMA 3190 (June 17, 1992).

4. Steven Thomma, Battered--and Often Denied Insurance, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 13, 1994.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: September 22, 1994