Braille Monitor October 1985
On Wednesday morning, July 3, 1985, the convention of the National Federation of the Blind discussed the topic: "Progress in Fighting Insurance Discrimination Against the Blind." The first speaker was Bruce Foudree, Insurance Commissioner for the State of Iowa and President of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners:
REMARKS BY BRUCE FOUDREE
It is an honor to be invited to join you here this morning, and I'd like to talk just very quickly about insurance. I understand there will be an opportunity for questions afterwards.
What do Insurance Commissioners do? Why are we around, and what are insurance departments for? Insurance departments exist to protect the public, and we do that in a couple of ways. Number one: We monitor the financial condition of insurance companies so we're sure they 'll be around to make good on their promises to pay when the time comes. Number two: We supervise their conduct and the conduct of their agents in the marketplace when they sell to the people. We have had many problems over the course of the last four or five years, including the problems with the availability of insurance, reinsurance, and (most recently) the Baldwin-United situation and the failure of the Baldwin-United companies.
1984 was the worst year in the history of the property and casualty insurance industry. Historically, the losses exceeded investment income for the first time. Despite that and the fact that we have had hundreds of issues to deal with, there is one issue that the commissioners feel is important and which they have singled out for attention. That is unfair discrimination against blind persons in the sale of insurance.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, therefore, has taken a number of actions to deal with this problem. Several years ago we passed model language prohibiting unfair discrimination against physically and mentally impaired persons and blind persons. This was intended to supplement our national model on unfair insurance trade practices. Last year we testified before Congress about this problem, as did the National Federation of the Blind. However, we discovered that a number of serious problems still existed. We decided that our previous legislation was not enough to deal with the problem.
Therefore, in August of last year (1984) we sought to reestablish our link between the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the National Federation of the Blind. We set up a working group of commissioners to act as a liaison with the Federation, and we surveyed the life insurance industry members for action on our rules and regulations. As a result of the problem which we uncovered: In December of 1984 (just four months later) the National Association of Insurance Commissioners did a couple of things. First of all, we adopted a new model regulation specifically aimed at unfair discrimination against blind persons. I'd like to read you the heart of that regulation. Very simply, it says: "The following are hereby identified as acts or practices which constitute unfair discrimination between individuals of the same class: refusing to insure or refusing to continue to insure or limiting the amount, extent, or kind of coverage available to an individual, or charging an individual a different rate for the same coverage, solely because of blindness or partial blindness."
A number of states have adopted that regulation so far, and many others are in the process of adopting it. Suffice it to say that this is the major direction the Association is taking-- that is, to amend the regulation. I will say that we are opposed to federal involvement in this area. We are strongly opposed to federal regulation, and the states therefore are taking action so that we can do a better job of dealing with this problem. The NAIC (National Association of Insurance Commissioners) is supporting, monitoring, and coordinating efforts to have the new model rule adopted in the states, and insurers' responses are also being monitored. We have received correspondence from the life insurance industry on this issue. One letter we received from Northwestern National Life Insurance Company stated:
"We would like to applaud the National Federation of the Blind's efforts and the NAIC's efforts in adopting this amendment. We have reviewed our underwriting guidelines, and we are in compliance with the amended regulation. We will comply with the amended regulation in all jurisdictions in which we do business, whether or not the particular jurisdictions have adopted the amended regulation."
We think that this, so far as we can tell, is indicative of what is occurring throughout the insurance industry today. However, as I say, we're going to continue to monitor this to be sure that, in fact, the insurers are complying with the new model regulation. We will also put pressure on those states that are slow to act in adopting the regulation. In that regard, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has passed a resolution, which I'd like to read to you. It says:
Whereas, it has come to the attention of the various members of the NAIC that certain members of the insurance industry are engaging in activities which are intended to be prohibited by the model regulation on unfair discrimination on the basis of blindness or partial blindness; and
Whereas, such actions constitute unfair discrimination against blind persons in the sale of insurance; and
Whereas, the NAIC has deemed it necessary to amend the act as of December, 1984, in order to clarify its intent to prohibit those acts; and
Whereas, it is essential that all states act to prohibit such actions. Now, therefore:
Be It Resolved that all states are urged to immediately take steps to seek enactment and implementation of the changes to the model regulation on unfair discrimination on the basis of blindness or partial blindness adopted by the committee in December, 1984.
Be It Further Resolved that the NAIC Support and Services Office [that's our headquarters office in Kansas City] shall assist the office in monitoring the efforts and progress of the states in achieving enactment and implementation of the provisions of the amended model act prohibiting unfair discrimination against blind persons.
In the meantime what can you do if you have a problem, or if you have a problem with a particular insurer or a complaint? Number one: You can call your insurance department for information or help. Most departments (but not all of them) have some kind of public service division or consumer division which is set up just for that purpose--to respond to inquiries from the citizens in that state. Number two: If you have a complaint, put it in writing to your insurance commissioner--and I have a special request, and that is if you do write to your commissioner or your department about a complaint, I would ask you to send a copy of that to the NAIC general counsel. The address is 1125 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri 64106.
Let me conclude by saying that we want to work with you in dealing with this problem. We invite your input, and I want to thank you again for inviting me to join you here this morning.
The next person to speak was a representative from the insurance industry.
He was Michael Marchese, Vice President of Governmental Relations, Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana:
REMARKS BY MICHAEL MARCHESE
It is a privilege for me to be here. You've invited me to say a little bit about my industry's perspective on life insurance for the blind. Let's begin by recognizing that your Federation and our industry have had some differences on this subject. And those differences, I suppose you might say, have centered on whether our actuarial statistics are reliable or not. It seems to me the best approach to our topic is a brief summary of Lincoln National's approach to underwriting so-called special risks. Then, I will address myself directly to the matter of life insurance for the blind.
While most people today can get life insurance, this was not the case when Lincoln National set up shop back in 1905. At that time individuals in some high risk categories, such as railroad engineers and others, were unable to purchase insurance coverage at any price. Much of Lincoln National's early success can be attributed to its pioneering role in offering insurance to these so-called "special risks."
Given sufficient data and competent analysis, we reasoned, it should be possible to predict the mortality of these "special risks," and price insurance accordingly. And that's exactly what we did. As early as 1913 the industry was turning down the request of one applicant in ten. Thanks to its special risks analysis, Lincoln National was rejecting only one in twenty-five. We were the first company to offer life insurance to diabetics, beginning to issue this coverage in 1946. In 1977 we were among the first to offer insurance to individuals who had recovered from coronary bypass surgery. This was good business. An insurer that is able to profitably accept risks that its competitors will not has an edge.
As you can appreciate, competition in the marketplace is what drives life insurers to price products at the lowest possible rate and to sell those products to the widest possible market. This being the case, you may ask: "Where was Lincoln National and the rest of the insurance industry when it came to issuing policies to the blind?" Part of the answer has to do with pure economics, and this is kind of a sad story that you already know all about. Those in the market for insurance (typically) are employed. They want life insurance to protect their family's standard of living against loss of income due to untimely death. A relatively small number of blind people fit this description. By one estimate there are about 500,000 blind Americans. Of these, more than half are past retirement age, and another 40,000 are under nineteen. Retirees rarely need to buy insurance. Lincoln National almost never receives an application from a retiree. Those in the younger age classification seldom have dependents or substantial incomes.
This leaves about 200,000 blind persons in the prime life insurance buying years. Statistics show that the rate of participation in the labor force by the blind is much lower than the general population. Less than one-third of working age, visually disabled persons are in the labor force. This compares to a participation rate of almost three-fourths for the U.S. population. Obviously 60,000 to 70,000 people, then, are not a very big market for life insurance.
As you can appreciate, gathering data to adequately underwrite life insurance for a given risk category is time consuming and expensive. Like many other insurers, Lincoln National viewed the potential market for insurance among the blind as too small to command the resources necessary to gather and analyze relevant data.
But there is a consideration beyond economics. A moment ago I mentioned that Lincoln National was among the first to offer insurance to people like diabetics and bypass patients who couldn't buy insurance at all. Blind people don't fall into this category. Lincoln National and most other companies have issued life insurance to the blind. Most blind people who seek our coverage are rated as standard risks. Between 1977 and 1984 Lincoln National received forty-one applications from blind people. Of these, thirty-two were rated as standard risks and six as substandard. Two were denied for reasons other than blindness, and one application was withdrawn.
For what reasons might a blind person be rated as a substandard risk? Certainly the cause of blindness is a consideration. For example, an individual whose blindness results from diabetes probably will pay more for insurance than an otherwise healthy person whose blindness was caused by an accident. Except in the case of individuals whose blindness is recent (and now I'm getting to the nub of it here) we have not considered blindness per se as an under writing factor. In the past we have, though, rated people who have been blind for five years or fewer as substandard risks. This is the issue, as you know, over which the Federation and the insurance industry have disagreed.
I believe you also know the outcome. State regulators, working with Mr. Gashel and the industry, have developed a model regulation which, in effect, states that blindness or partial blindness per se may not be used in classifying life and health insurance risks.
It is my understanding that this regulation meets with your approval--and I'll say that it does with Lincoln, too. Although it's academic now, I must tell you that statistical evidence that we have (and Jim Gashel and I have debated whether our sample is large enough to produce relevant statistics) suggests that during the five-year period immediately following the onset of blindness, blind people do show mortality experience which is about two and a half times standard.
I'm not persuaded that we have any idea why this is. Some have offered the opinion that the deaths are stress related. For instance, we find a higher than expected incidence of circulatory diseases cited as causes of death among the newly blind. But we sure can't prove what I just said.
But this is all academic now as I've said, and Lincoln National will abide by the letter and the spirit of this regulation. We're in the process of revising our underwriting manuals to reflect this change. In the meantime, though, we have in fact conformed our own underwriting practices to the new regulation.
In our home state of Indiana, the new regulation has been promulgated by the insurance department. We've urged our sister companies down in south Indiana (and there are some twenty-five of them) to change their practices--not only in Indiana but throughout the United States; and I am confident that they will do that.
It's worth mentioning that many other life insurance companies adopt our underwriting manual as their own. This is because we are a major provider of reinsurance to these other companies. We've written a letter to each of our approximately 700 reinsurance clients (that's other life insurance companies) advising them of the changes and recommending that they be adopted. I think
Mr. Gashel has copies of these letters and our new guidelines, and I'm confident that all of our reinsurance clients are going to be doing this.
As I said at the outset, there has been disagreement as to how or whether the insurance industry should have used blindness as an underwriting criterion. I think that's all behind us now. In any event I'm certain of one thing: I have absolutely no desire to debate this issue any longer with Jim Gashel (laughter and applause) in front of the state regulators or the United States Congress. I thought I was a pretty good lobbyist, but I now know what one really is--and that's Jim Gashel! Where the life insurance marketplace may have failed you, Jim has succeeded. Blindness per se will no longer be an underwriting criterion for life and health insurance. Jim and I now, hopefully, can turn our attention to other, more important issues.
It's been a real privilege to get to know Jim, and also to become acquainted with this fine organization of yours. I thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to be here with you today.
President Jernigan said: "Thank you, Mr. Marchese. I must say: You take your lumps and express your opinions with great good temper and equanimity--and that is what a man ought to do. We try to do the same. The final member of our panel is our own Director of Governmental Affairs, Jim Gashel:
REMARKS BY JAMES GASHEL
Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Michael Marchese! He does take it fairly well. We really have had, I think, a very good year, at least in the business of insurance.
Let me go back and retrace, though, why we got here. I think that's important for us to know--because it has a lesson, not only in this particular struggle but in many others that we engage in. I can remember when I was graduating from college and thinking about the business of buying insurance. I ran into a company--also domiciled in Indiana, Mr. Marchese--but not yours.
They said they wouldn't sell me certain types of coverage. They would sell me standard coverage, but they wouldn't sell me certain other types of coverage. I suppose I could have taken my money (and ultimately did, actually) and gone to other insurers and bought the same insurance--in fact, better insurance. But I didn't like it, and it did something to me to know that I was the victim of discrimination. At that point in time, as an individual, there wasn't anything I could do about it.
How many of you have ever felt the same way when you've been the subjects of discrimination? (Applause) I vowed, along with the rest of the members of the National Federation of the Blind, that we were going to do something about that problem. We started going to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners twenty years (count them) twenty years ago this year--in December of 1965. Our representatives asked the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to do something about this problem--because they could regulate insurance. We couldn't.
Well, the commissioners listened, and they were polite. Then, they went home and they did nothing. The years went by, and I (along with others) continued to experience discrimination--and we continued to pay the extra premiums. We continued not to be able to purchase certain types of coverage that we should have had all along.
It wasn't until 1976 that we began to get action. It took a fairly dramatic incident with our own Jim Omvig of Iowa, who attempted to purchase flight insurance at the Des Moines airport. The flight insurance company, an affiliate of Mutual of Omaha, would sell Sharon Omvig $375,000 worth of flight insurance--a sighted person $375,000 worth of flight insurance. But Jim Omvig (blind) could get only $20,000 worth of flight insurance. So I guess our ratio to the sighted is $375,000 to $20,000, apparently, according to the affiliate of Mutual of Omaha.
Mr. Omvig didn't propose to fly the plane. He just proposed to sit on it and ride--sitting right beside Sharon.
Yet, his life was only considered to be a fraction of the value of hers. And that is wrong. So we went to the press, we went to the public--and we went to the Iowa State Insurance Department. There we found a man of conscience, and he was Herb Anderson (now deceased), who was at that time the Insurance Commissioner of Iowa. He said:
"We're going to do something about this problem." So we picked up an ally. It was the state of Iowa in 1977 that enacted the first insurance regulation prohibiting discrimination based on blindness. The industry responded with fury. Almost immediately there was a lawsuit to overturn that regulation. That lawsuit did successfully overturn the original Iowa regulation.
We also went to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to get a model regulation adopted with respect to blindness nationally so that all states could benefit from the same experience that we had in Iowa. That model regulation was negotiated and enacted with the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind in 1978. The odds were a little different for us in 1978 from what they are today. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners conducted a proceeding wherein a panel (a select panel) was set up of, I believe, about eleven industry members and one blind representative. That blind representative was Jim Omvig, representing the National Federation of the Blind.
That's not bad odds, eleven to one. We still came out with a model regulation that purported to prohibit discrimination based on blindness. Unfortunately it had one loophole in it. It said that there could be a different form of coverage (higher rate or no coverage) if it was justified by sound actuarial principles or reasonably anticipated experience. That's the essence of the business. Well, very shortly thereafter, companies like Lincoln National and some others began to argue that it was reasonable to deny a blind person disability income coverage, for example, and some other features because it was reasonable to expect that blind people simply would have more hazards. They had a few figures (but not many) to back it up. At least one state insurance department (the state of Washington) agreed with Lincoln National that it was reasonable to assume that blind people would be at greater risk, and they found against a complaint brought by one of our own members, Scott Lewis.
We had a series of other incidents occur in the 1980's which led a number of us to conclude that we really had not succeeded in what we thought we had achieved in 1978. Sure, we had a national regulation--and sure, a number of states had adopted it; but sure, it was reasonable to discriminate against the blind. That's what was being said at that point in time.
So we decided to take our message to Congress, as we so often do. In the 98th Congress the Fair Insurance Coverage Act was offered. That got somebody's attention. We began to hear all of a sudden from the insurance industry. We began to hear all of a sudden from the insurance commissioners. We began to read material from the industry and from the commissioners that said straight out that now that Congress was considering the Fair Insurance Coverage Act, the policies might, in fact, have to be changed.
Well, Congress did consider the Fair Insurance Coverage Act, in the last session. It was reported favorably from the House of Representatives subcommittee before we ran out of time.
But by that time the attention of the insurance commissioners had been drawn enough to this issue that the momentum was building for something to be done. That something was done, as Mr. Foudree described, in December when the model regulation on blindness was changed so that now there may be no reason for discrimination against blind people whatsoever--no matter what the actuarial evidence, or the notes on a lawyer's scratch pad, or the figures dredged up out of some computer might say.
An insurance company may not discriminate against blind people under that model regulation. That was the achievement of last December. Does that mean the battle is over? NO WAY! I continue to hear (even at this convention) from people who say "I'm being discriminated against by an insurance company. What can we do about it?"
And I say that we're trying to do something about it. We can never afford again to have occur what did occur in 1978 when we thought the battle was over. Because I described the insurance industry to somebody the other day as a multitentacled beast. You can deal with one or two tentacles of it, but a couple of others are bound to jump up and bat you in the nose. It's hard to know whether the insurance industry or the commissioners can actually speak with one tongue, or whether or not the commitment of one or two can become the commitment of all. We have gone back to the Congress (the 99th Congress) with a new Fair Insurance Coverage Act. I'll talk about that later this week. At this time I would just say this: At the meeting we had last December with the insurance industry and the insurance commissioners I was asked (after making a presentation): Having considered the model that has been described to you, would the National Federation of the Blind go out with the states and try to get the model enacted? And I said, unequivocally, "Yes, the National Federation of the Blind will go to the states and will try to get the new model enacted."
Then, I was asked would the National Federation of the Blind cease its efforts in Congress to try to get a national law enacted prohibiting insurance discrimination based on blindness.
I said, unequivocally, "No, the National Federation of the Blind will not cease its efforts in Congress, because we're just buying a little insurance policy ourselves--just to be sure that the industry and the commissioners never forget that the blind are here and we will not tolerate discrimination in insurance."
At the conclusion of Mr. Gashel's remarks President Jernigan said: "You can see from what has been said this morning (not just from Mr. Gashel but also from Mr. Foudree and Mr. Marchese) that, with respect to insurance, the past year has been a landmark time--a time of unparalleled success. I want to talk with you a little bit about where we go from here. As Mr. Gashel has said, the battle is not over even though I think we can begin to see enough progress to know that victory is very nearly in sight. I think it is in the July Monitor that we have an article about the Washington State Insurance Commissioner. That article sets forth correspondence between Scott Lewis, one of our members in Washington, and the State Insurance Commissioner. The correspondence is so interesting that I think it deserves to be seen by all of the insurance commissioners. When we go home from this convention it is my attention to duplicate that article and send it to every state insurance commissioner in the country--including the one in Washington; and to every member of Congress; and to other appropriate groups...
"Whether Mr. Marchese started from the same viewpoint that we started from or not, he says unequivocally that Lincoln National will not use blindness in any way as a special consideration in writing insurance. That's really what we want. Lincoln National is key in this business, because as he says, they do a great lot of the reinsurance business in this country. If we work together with them (and you can see that he comes to us with good temper and, I think, with a positive and cooperative spirit), I believe we can turn the whole insurance industry around. That will be one thing we can put behind us. We can work cooperatively to get the things done that we want done.
"I will now ask Mr. Gashel, Mr. Marchese, and Mr. Foudree to get to microphones. You can share a microphone here at the table. We can engage in discussion and questions from the audience.
The first question was asked by Jim Gashel: "My question is for Mr. Foudree. Some of the state insurance departments really aren't all that well staffed, and the blindness problem is really not all that common to them. Some of them try to batch types of complaints and sort of look at an industry after they get several complaints on an issue. I know you've described that that's the situation in Iowa currently. It may well be the same situation in other states. Given those facts, how can we be sure that in a given state a single blindness complaint filed with an insurance department will get action unless we have some kind of federal law that gives us a federal right of action in a court if the state insurance department can't do its job for us?"
Mr. Foudree: "Well, two things on that. First of all, in my remarks I asked that a copy of the complaint be sent to the NAIC, and I did that for a reason. That is so that we can monitor what the states are doing. We'll have a little peer review if you will. Second of all, a word of warning about federal legislation. I'm not sure it's the panacea you think it will be. In fact, if any of you have ever tried to complain to a federal agency, you know what I'm talking about. So I'm not real encouraged about any kind of response that you'll get from the federal level. Be that as it may, I think that we (as the states) can do a better job; and for those states that won't act, the NAIC will step in. That's why I asked for a copy of that complaint to be sent to us. We're doing the same thing on financial examinations."
President Jernigan: "Mr. Foudree, let me say to you that I think your suggestion that we send copies of any complaint to your office is a good one. I would say to the members here that a copy of any insurance complaint that you make, should be sent to the National Office of the Federation so that we may be in touch with the NAIC to be sure that we coordinate efforts. Once we get the pattern established, I think we won't have the kind of problems that we've been having. Mr. Foudree, just as a matter of information, we agree with you. Very often the federal agencies aren't as good as the state agencies in dealing with complaints. The reason for the federal law is not so the federal agencies can do the job. It is so that we can go to court and do the job for ourselves."
The next person to speak was Charlie Brown, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia: "Mr. Foudree, I'm from Virginia; and after the resolution was passed in December, I contacted the Insurance Commissioner's office, and they were not aware of the resolution. In fact, they did not believe me when I said that such a thing had passed. They told me to send it to them, which I did. I think we're going to work out things in Virginia, but the point is this: You said that the NAIC and the industry do not want us to push for federal legislation. Yet, what is it that the NAIC is prepared to do (and will do) to make sure that this regulation actually gets adopted?"
President Jernigan: "Charlie, in furtherance of what you have said, the Monitor article points out that the state of Washington has an Insurance Commissioner who categorically says that he has no intention of abiding by the model regulation. So we call publicly to your attention, Mr. Foudree, one such situation--the state of Washington. Their Insurance Commissioner says that he does not believe in the model regulation and that he is right and isn't going to abide by it!"
Mr. Foudree: "Well, we recognize that there are going to be a handful of states that may not adopt this regulation, or may not intend to adopt it. As I said, we're going to put pressure on those states. I haven't seen the correspondence from Washington, so I can't comment on that specifically although I'm very interested in it. As far as Virginia, Commissioner Thompson is, I think, by now (as most of the members are) aware that this is a commitment that the NAIC has made--so we're going to push on it. We're doing the same thing with states that are reluctant to act on insurance companies that are in trouble financially. We're putting pressure from the national level on those states, and I guess if your state is not one that has adopted the regulation, I would urge you to put additional pressure on the commissioner -- and if there is a problem there, let me know, and I'll work with you on it. "
The next person to speak was Jim Omvig, Director of the Louise Rude Center for Blind and Deaf Adults, Anchorage, Alaska: "We have to be very careful as we work with the state insurance commissioners not only to get the model regulation adopted but to make sure that it is adopted in the form in which it is now presented by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. We have had hearings in Alaska, and it will be adopted. It's written in a little different structure, but precisely the language and the intent are now there. After the state people brought home the model regulation from the NAIC meeting, they decided to make some alterations; and if we of the National Federation of the Blind had not been watching very closely what they were doing, we would have had a regulation in Alaska that was worse than the 1978 thing. So I advise all of you from all state affiliates to get hold of that regulation yourselves and know precisely what it means. Then, work with your insurance commissioners to make sure that the proper language is adopted.
"Now, Mr. Foudree, I want to give you some notion of the magnitude of the problem we still face. A phenomenal thing happened to me last week, and I'll do something about it as soon as I get home. I was in the process of buying group life insurance for the employees of the agency which I now direct. New York Life refused to sell group life insurance to an agency because it had blind employees on its staff. That's a new one for me. I thought you might as well get the word. They will get it from me as well, as soon as I get back."
Mr. Foudree: "May I just say something in response to that and the earlier question about the federal legislation. I guess it's important to emphasize that the states (the state insurance departments) have jealously guarded their right to regulate insurance. In this country the states regulate insurance, not the federal government. I would say that if there is going to be a state or two that does not eventually adopt this model legislation that we've passed, then I think you have every right to go to that state legislature and let them know, and pass a state law. I still think your best bet is to pursue it at the state level--in those courts where you will have the most influence, not in the federal court."
The next person to speak was Dick Davis, a rehabilitation counselor with the Iowa Commission for the Blind and a long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa: "This is addressed to Mr. Foudree. Mr. Foudree, I know of a case in Iowa in which a blind woman with Retinitis Pigmentosa applied for health insurance for herself and her children. She was rejected by two companies and appealed the rejections to your department in January. In letters written to your staff, both companies said that they weren't discriminating because of blindness. Instead, they made a big deal of the fact that Retinitis Pigmentosa is a degenerative condition and that the risk was too great because of the serious multiple health problems associated with Retinitis Pigmentosa--things such as cataracts, near-sightedness, and deafness. Since most people with Retinitis Pigmentosa don't have these problems (and near-sightedness isn't much of a disability anyway), this is obviously a camouflage to cover up discrimination based on blindness. This has dragged on for six months, and still she doesn't have any health insurance. What can you do about this?"
Mr. Foudree: "Obviously I can't be aware of every one of the hundreds of complaints that we get, but first of all let me ask you, what were the names of the companies?"
Dick Davis: "One was Bankers Life, and the other was something General Insurance Company of Omaha. I think it was Continental General Insurance Company of Omaha."
Mr. Foudree: "What I'd request is that you send me copies of that material, and I'll look into that personally."
Then, Larry Posont, who is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, spoke: "In the last ten years I've purchased life insurance twice. The first time I had no problems getting life insurance, but I kept having the problems getting the premium waiver. Just this year (I will send the information to you this week when I get back) I got the life insurance--but the insurance company says denied waiver of premium. The report said that I had no problem other than blindness, but they wouldn't admit that they were discriminating because of blindness. They're still taking my money for premium waiver. Now, I went to the state insurance commissioner, and I haven't gotten a response back from them; but they were willing to take my money for that premium waiver while my application was in the insurance company--but they sure weren't willing to give it back to me once I gave it to them."
The next to speak was Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland: "I'd like to ask Mr. Marchese a question. Mr. Marchese told us that Lincoln National was not going to consider blindness in the sale of insurance, and that is very encouraging. What can Lincoln National do?
Here you are coming to speak to us from the industry. The industry is not one company but a great number of companies. What can Lincoln National do to help get the new policy adopted throughout the industry, across the board, in all of the insurance companies?"
Mr. Marchese: "Well, if I'm as good at my job as Jim Gashel is at his, I think there's a lot I can do. I've already told you the principal thing we can do. We have 700 life insurance companies that are our clients. They buy reinsurance from us. Most of them underwrite the same way we do, so that when we change our underwriting practices in respect to blind people, they will, too. That'll have a major effect. We have an association of life insurance companies that are domiciled in Indiana. I have no doubt in my mind that those Indiana companies, at our urging, will be changing their underwriting guidelines with respect to blind people. Beyond that, I've got a lot of friends in the industry. I go to meetings like these that you're having, and I will have a lot of people in the industry who feel the same way I do about this. Together I think we can make a real difference in the way the life insurance industry deals with blind people. That is to deal with you just like we deal with everybody, and try to sell you life insurance... One way to get our attention is to threaten us with a federal law. It's not really relevant whether the law ever passes or not. So long as the threat is there, you have our attention."
President Jernigan: "With respect to that (and not in the way of a threat, but simply thinking out loud with you) I suspect that since we have a great many things to do, the amount of priority that we give to passage of this law, and the amount of energy that we're willing to put into it, will probably depend on the amount of progress we see."
Mr. Marchese: "I would have assumed that, sir."
After this exchange Peter Grunwald (one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois) spoke: "Somewhere in line with what Mr. Omvig was saying and what you yourself were just saying, I think it would be instructive for people to hear of our experience in Illinois. Soon after the resolution came from the NAIC, we approached members in the general assembly and in the insurance commissioner's office to talk about adoption of the new model regulation. Everybody agreed it was a fine thing to do. The insurance department said they'd sponsor a bill. The next thing we knew, they had sponsored a bill all right, but it included the language regarding actuarial evidence and reasonably anticipated risk. We said: 'You've already got that on the books. What do you need to adopt that for. That isn't the new model regulation at all.'
"They said, 'Well, we really aren't terribly happy with the new model regulation.'
"We said, 'Well, we're just going to have to see what we can do.' I talked to Mr. Gashel and asked: 'Who can I contact in the NAIC to see what they can do?' He gave me Mr. Skip Myers' name, and I talked to Mr. Myers, who's I guess, their Washington representative. I said: 'You aren't' going to have a very effective time convincing the Congress that we don't need federal legislation if you can't even get the states to adopt the model regulation.' He said he would see what he could do. And sure enough, in a matter of just a few days I had a call from the insurance department in Illinois saying that they would amend the bill to be exactly the model regulation..."
Mr. Marchese: "Change is slow, but sometimes you have to do the sort of thing you did. Again, I urge you to write to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That's how we're going to try to enforce this thing nationwide."
After further discussion and questions, President Jernigan brought the insurance discussion to a close with these remarks: "Gentlemen, I'd like to thank the three of you for participating. I think this has been helpful.
It's encouraging. I think when we can get together and discuss problems and take collective action such as we have taken, it brings good results. You can all see from what has been said here that blind persons now and in the future who get insurance without difficulty and who will think nothing about it would (if they really had the data) thank the National Federation of the Blind for making it possible."