The Center for Economic Justice today challenged insurers and insurance regulators to match their public statements condemning systemic bias and inherent racism with concrete actions to address inherent racism in insurance.
“We were heartened to see insurance company CEO’s calling for changing business practices to stop the effects of systemic bias and inherent racism in society. But we now challenge the insurers and their regulators to show these statements were not mere public relations, but reflect a true commitment to stamp out discriminatory practices in insurance,” said Birny Birnbaum, executive director of the center.
The May 25 murder of George Floyd has led to widespread corporate recognition of and
opposition to systemic bias and inherent racism in America. Corporate CEOs have spoken out,
including several major insurer CEOs.
"I encourage each of us to step outside of our comfort zones, seek to understand, engage in productive conversations and hold ourselves accountable for being part of the solution," said Kirt Walker, CEO of Nationwide. "We must forever stamp out racism and discrimination.”
The center, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization, set out two concrete actions for insurers and state insurance regulators to address the proxy discrimination resulting from systemic racism:
- Explicit recognition of disparate impact, also known as proxy discrimination, as unfair discrimination against protected classes in insurance coupled with responsibility for insurers and insurance regulators to identify such disparate impact and take steps to minimize this proxy discrimination within the overall regulatory framework of cost-based pricing.
- Development of regulatory data collection and analysis infrastructure and capabilities for insurance regulators and the public to meaningfully monitor market outcomes for all consumers, to identify discriminatory outcomes and trace disparate impact to the causes.
CEJ noted that most insurance is regulated by the states, but cautioned insurers and regulators that, in the absence of necessary actions by insurers and the states, Congress and federal agencies will eventually address these problems through civil rights legislation and enforcement.
“Recognition of proxy discrimination as unfair discrimination against protected classes – and a responsibility to identify and minimize such unfair discrimination – is particularly suited to insurance,” Birnbaum said. “Insurance is all about statistical relationships, so insurers have the tools to identify and overcome systemic unfair bias against Black Americans.”
Susan Neely, CEO for the American Council of Life Insurers, said the industry is a willing partner in the fight against racial injustice.
“Life insurers meet our commitment to financial protection for all Americans with fairness for applicants and policyholders," she said in a statement. "Our goal is to provide financial and retirement security to as many people as possible. The life insurance community stated our commitment to addressing racial injustice earlier this month.
"We are committed to fighting racial inequality with consumers, regulators and especially people of color because their voices and experiences must be heard in a serious, ongoing dialogue.”
The center reached out to state insurance regulators at the NAIC – the trade association of state insurance regulators – and the various committees and working groups whose activity must be informed by and respond to issues of inherent bias and systemic racism.
The center also reached out the Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance Subcommittee on Insurance Availability to adopt recommendations to the Federal Insurance Office of the Department of Treasury to take actions to address systemic bias in insurance.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH.
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