October 5, 1998
The Honorable Jack Quinn
Member, U.S. House of Representatives
403 Main Street
Buffalo, New York 14203-2199
Dear Congressman Quinn:
I am responding to your letter on behalf of your constituent, Ms. xxxxxxxxxxxx, who wrote to you asserting that she was denied the opportunity to purchase health insurance because she has Graves' disease and a bipolar disorder.
You have asked us to determine if this decision violates Federal law. Please excuse our delay in responding.
The Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by places of public accommodation, including service establishments such as insurance companies. However, the ADA does not prohibit insurance companies from underwriting, classifying, or administering their benefit plans in accordance with State insurance laws, provided that such practices are not used as a subterfuge to evade the purposes of the ADA. Therefore, the ADA may allow insurance companies to charge more for insurance if the company's decision is based on legitimate actuarial data and principles, and not on speculation about the effects of a disability. An insurance company, however, may not refuse to serve a person with a disability because of limitations on coverage or higher rates in its insurance policies. Because each person's situation is unique, it is not possible for us to determine, based on the information provided by Ms. xxxxxx, whether the insurance company's decision on her application was made in compliance with the ADA.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for the implementation of other Federal laws that affect health care and insurance providers. Therefore, we have referred your letter to HHS for review and response with respect to the possible application of statutes subject to HHS jurisdiction. Questions with respect to HHS jurisdiction may be directed to:
Ms. Nancy-Ann Min DeParle
Health Care Financing Administration
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, Maryland 21244-1850
Telephone (410) 786-3000
I have enclosed a copy of the regulation implementing
title III of the ADA for your reference. I hope this information is helpful to you in responding to your constituent.
Bill Lann Lee
Civil Rights Division