The controversial gender identification issue came up Tuesday as state insurance regulators continued debating its long-delayed “policy overview” summary to accompany life insurance sales.
A National Association of Insurance Commissioners' working group was working through language in the policy overview when it took up a request by Pacific Life to change "gender" to "sex."
Birny Birnbaum, executive director of the Center for Economic Justice, questioned whether the traditional "sex" designation really serves everyone.
“What does a life insurance company do if somebody doesn’t put in male or female, or if somebody puts in what they view to be their current gender to be as opposed to their birth gender was?" he asked. "What do you do with somebody who is transgender?"
“I think that’s the point of proposing the change," said Michael Lovendusky, vice president and associate general counsel for the American Council of Life Insurers. "Sex is chromosome related and is what sound underwriting is based upon, not one’s opinion about what one’s gender is.”
Richard Wicka, deputy chief legal counsel for the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, sought to defuse any hint of discrimination.
“I personally don’t view this as not recognizing one’s gender or gender identity," he said. "I mean it’s an underwriting characteristic."
The group agreed to tabled the language change until more research is done on how gender identification is handled by regulators and insurers.
Timing Still An Issue
The Life Insurance Illustration Issues Working Group continues to debate the timing of the policy overview. During a previous conference call, the group agreed to require distribution of a policy overview in tandem with the buyer's guide on all life insurance policies. That opened the door for the Center for Economic Justice to question the overall timing.
The CEJ is pushing for the documents to be given to consumers before they apply for a life insurance policy. As it stands, the buyer's guide is delivered in conjunction with the policy.
To deliver the policy overview at that time wouldn't have any impact, said Birnbaum and others.
"If I already bought my life insurance and went through whatever medical exam I needed, I’m not going to look at it. I’m done," agreed Jodi Lerner, attorney for the California Department of Insurance.
But insurers are balking at moving the buyer's guide and policy overview delivery time. It's not feasible to give a consumer the policy pricing at the time of application, Lovendusky claimed.
"The earlier (the working group) attempts to move delivery of the policy overview, the more likely it will be useless to the consumer," he said. "But it will nonetheless tax the insurance company and raise costs for all insurers and all consumers."
The working group voted to ask its parent A Committee for more direction, or to see if the A Committee wants to set up a different working group to tackle the delivery issue.
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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