Women’s group sues Montana for alleged discrimination in insurance law – Daily Montanan

The women’s group was one of the plaintiffs suing the state of Montana over a law passed by Congress in 2021 that would allow insurance rates to be set based on gender or marital status.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, plaintiffs allege that House Bill 379 recognizes discriminatory practices by insurance companies and does not give individuals typical legal recourse through the Montana Human Rights Act.

HB379 Revised an annotated section of Montana law that has prohibited discrimination based on sex or marital status in state insurance plans, policies, and coverage since the 1980s.

The National Organization for Women and the Montana Chapter of the American College Women’s Association were among the plaintiffs, including Senator Diane Sands, Missoula Democrat, and unmarried Missoula Senator Willard Randall.

“We expect you to pay premiums that take into account your driving history and billing history. One Kia Abbey said in a press release.

State auditor Troy Downing, the defendant in the lawsuit, called HB 379 his own law in a press release when the law was signed into law in April 2021. “Artificially inflated premiums for women, especially in life insurance and auto insurance.”

“This bill will help consumers, help businesses and promote a more competitive marketplace,” he said in a 2021 release.

The Montana State Comptroller’s Securities and Insurance Commissioner was not reachable by voicemail on Thursday.

Plaintiffs allege that HB 379 violated both the equal protection and special statutory provisions of the Montana Constitution, citing a 2009 lawsuit that “determined the rights of people arbitrarily selected from a larger group of people.” It cited a 2009 lawsuit outlining special statutes granting classes “certain privileges or impediments.”

“Allowing insurers to consider gender and marital status will only provide one more tool to increase profits and reduce unpredictability for Montana consumers across insurance classes. It leads to discrimination,” he argues.

The bill was introduced in the 2021 Congress by Rep. Sue Vinton (R-Billings), Larry Brewster (R-Billings) and Rep. Rhonda Knudsen (R-Culbertson).

As a Missoula small business owner, Randall said he believes in treating each client fairly.

“I have been paying auto, home and business insurance premiums for decades. It makes no sense at all,” said Randall.

The plaintiffs are represented by Niki Zupanic and Rylee Sommers-Flanagan of Upper Seven Law and Kimberly Dudik of Kimberly Dudik & Associates.

House Bill 379 is one of more than 20 bills to pass the 2021 Congress.

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