A lawsuit filed this week by state senators challenged the constitutionality of a bill passed in 2021 that would allow insurance agents to consider gender in pricing.
The lawsuit alleges that House Bill 379 paved the way for insurance agents to charge more based on gender. This violates constitutional protections against discrimination.
Previously, Montana was the only state that did not allow agents to consider a customer’s gender when determining premium rates. Republican House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, from Billings, endorsed the bill.
The lawsuit filed in the Lewis and Clark County District is dated November 2nd. Plaintiffs include Missoula Democratic Senator Diane Sands, who resigned after Congress in 2021, Kalispell and his two individuals in Missoula, and the Montana branch of Congress. National Organization for Women and the University of Montana Women’s Association.
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Montana Insurance Commissioner Troy Downing and Montana Labor and Industry Commissioner Laurie Esau are both listed as defendants.
A Department of Labor and Industry spokesman declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit.
State Comptroller’s Office spokesperson Sam Loveridge said in an email Friday that charges are still being reviewed for discriminatory practices since HB 379 passed.
“All fees submitted to our agency are reviewed to ensure they are not excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory,” said Loveridge. “Our office requires companies to demonstrate that gender-specific premium rates are actuarially justified. It requires companies to demonstrate that they are actuarially justified.
Supporters of HB 379 told state legislators last year that this meant women were effectively subsidizing young men.
“This solves that problem,” Downing told the Senate Committee on Business, Labor and Economic Affairs.
The lawsuit alleges that since the law was enacted, premium rates have risen significantly more for men than for women, and the law allows those who have been discriminated against to use the Montana Human Rights Act process to sue their discrimination. It claims to block
Plaintiff asked the judge to strike down HB 379 as unconstitutional.