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Maryland Bans Gender-Based Insurance Rates

July 28, 1992

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Insurance companies that base the price of life insurance on a client’s gender violate the state’s Equal Rights Amendment, a state official ruled.

The decision Monday by Deputy Insurance Commissioner Thomas Raimondi made Maryland the only state besides Montana to prohibit gender-based insurance rate adjustments. As a result, insurance companies cannot charge lower rates for women, who on average live longer than men.

The case began in 1978, when the state Commission on Human Relations sued the Equitable Life Assurance Society.

Officials for Equitable Life, the nation’s third largest life insurer, said they will appeal Monday’s decision.

The ruling was hailed by the National Organization for Women, whose Maryland and Baltimore chapters were plaintiffs in the case.

″Insurance companies will no longer be able to use gender as a shorthand for ratemaking criteria like lifestyle, smoking and other more pertinent factors,″ said Martha Davis, a NOW attorney.

But unisex insurance pricing was criticized by insurers, who warned they could be forced to charge unfair prices.

″This type of pricing is a time-tested system based on scientific computation that treats fairly each group of individuals,″ said Equitable spokeswoman Mary Mannarino.

And Greg Herriger, vice president and general counsel for the Baltimore Life Insurance Co., said, ″We think it is fairer to price risks according to their risks, otherwise you have one group subsidizing another.″

Monday’s ruling gives insurers until the end of the year to rescind gender- based policy language.

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