Tom Feeney: An urgent plea for life insurers

life-insurance_large (Large)
It seems things are headed in the wrong direction.

This was supposed to be the Session of fewer government regulations, fewer impediments to business and fewer laws that interfered in commerce and people’s lives.

In many ways, it has been. To those lawmakers working hard to deregulate health care, assignment of benefits and other key areas — kudos and thank you. We in the business community are grateful for your work

But when it comes to life insurance companies and the 7 million policyholders in the state, it seems things are headed in the wrong direction.

There is a very bad anti-consumer bill (HB 879) that adds new government regulations for transactions between private businesses (life insurance companies) and the people they hope to financially protect The bill contains dangerous language that will prevent insurance underwriters from utilizing vital medical information — DNA information that is routinely found in medical records — to evaluate an applicant.

And, as odd as it sounds, in HB 879, a consumer cannot even use DNA information to correct a mistake.

If a consumer wishes to use their DNA information to show that a presupposition about their health is wrong, they are out of luck. The bill blocks the use of information for both sides of the equation.

Why is government interfering with life insurance underwriting, a process that has worked well in Florida and throughout the nation for generations? Why is government getting into the business of blocking science? Why are lawmakers promoting more government regulations to prevent insurers and consumers from using the best available information to make good decisions? We don’t know!

And what will happen if this bill passes?

Consumers will be encouraged to hide relevant information from a potential insurer. Applicants will actually be incentivized to act dishonestly. As a direct result, insurers will have no choice but to place people (healthy and unhealthy) into the same category.

That makes no sense and is bound to make coverage less affordable and accessible.

We saw the same kind of illogic in Hillary-care and Obamacare. More government regulations that were supposedly designed to protect consumers that actually hurt businesses and providers who were forced to pass on these costs — and ultimately, consumers were the ones who suffered the most.

But to be clear, there is a fair and sensible middle ground.

As per an amendment that Sen. Aaron Bean submitted (and the content of which became part of the Senate version of this bill) private DNA data should be kept private. His amendment does just that by protecting consumer privacy from anyone’s prying eyes and it can only be used with the permission of that consumer. That is exactly the right balance and on that, we should all agree.

When that information is part of one’s medical record and is a meaningful data point for assessing someone’s health, consumers should be required to fully disclose what they know. This can be done both to support the notion of good health on behalf of an applicant as well as help the insurer properly evaluate someone’s life expectancy. It’s good for the proverbial goose AND the gander.

The Bean/Senate version strikes this fair balance and the concepts in his measure are not any different from what we generally demand as a matter of law in all business transactions; honesty and full disclosure of relevant information.

A level playing field for both sides.

Unfortunately, as written, HB 879 would earn Florida the unimpressive distinction of being the only state to add to its books new government regulations that encourage dishonesty, rewards concealment of information, and serves to deny many people with the financial protection they want and need.

Not even California has enacted such an overreaching and burdensome government regulation.

I encourage both chambers to take a closer look at this bill and work toward that fair balance.


Tom Feeney is president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Florida.

Guest Author


  • Nancy Argenziano

    April 26, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Sorry Tom I can’t go along with this propaganda. When we serve together over 20 years ago we got rid of all duplicative rules all unnecessary laws and rules and we deregulated. In the past 10 years the deregulation was not helping businesses was harming the citizens there was no balance left it was all for the corporations and businesses and not small businesses it was from Big Business. Now I realize you make your bread-and-butter doing this but people like me and others who know better know this is a line of crap. There has to be balanced and there hasn’t been balanced for a long time with this new Republican party when people finally realize what this new Republican party is doing to them and the harm it is causing when they have e-coli in their food when the waters are turning green when they can’t breathe the air the GOP is dead. I know that many of the trolls and lobbyists are going to say something different but I can show and so many places where the deregulation has harmed not only the steak but many people’s lives and if the Republicans have been in control for all this time since 1996 and they haven’t even regulated by now what would make anybody believe you would question mark you’ve deregulated beyond what is safe for the public

    • nancy

      April 26, 2019 at 3:07 pm

      I used voice recognition and it is a mess but you’ll get the drift

  • Nancy

    April 26, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    I wish there was an edit button. Using voice recognition while doing other things us so bad. Sorry

  • Nancy

    April 26, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Sorrys, my comments were to go to your comments of how great the recent ‘re-reg has been, not to this issue on using medical DNA. Its just that its hard to hear you stand up for science suddenly while the GOP does not on so many critical issues.As I recall you once were against using DNA when dealing with those on death row. Glad to see you ising it now for whatever reasons you may have

  • gary

    April 26, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    Guess we know who is on this clowns doner list!

  • Mike

    April 26, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    Yes this is a brilliant idea. Let people who KNOW they are about to get real sick or die go in and buy the max in life insurance. What could possibly go wrong there.

    And Florida doesnt have enough problems with high insurance rates does it. Jesus, who thinks of this crap.

    • Ron Johnson

      April 26, 2019 at 4:44 pm

      Politicians, thats who. I’ve been writing insurance for 27 years and this is one of the stupidest ideas I have heard. Have they thought to consider that if Florida is the only state to do something like this, people will come here to buy their policies and this will cause companies to have to increase rates here for everyone? This is a terrible legislation.

      • Renee

        April 26, 2019 at 11:00 pm

        So true. Great comments.

    • B Lawson

      April 27, 2019 at 2:47 pm

      I don’t think any of us truly know if he impact this will have on insurance rates in the future. I too have been writing life insurance policies for over 20 years. The real problem we may have Is as genetic testing as refined and 10 years from now you can know a lot more, then you will have a real problem with adverse selection.

      Today this may be minimal. In a decade this could cause a death spiral in this line of insurance. I hope they are very cognizant of this risk.

      • Drew Smith

        April 28, 2019 at 3:19 pm

        This is a very interesting article. On one hand I would agree with the point of view that DNA test results should be very carefully treated. Nobody knows where this capability is headed down the road. Its likely that in 20 years, a DNA test can predict with pinpoint accuracy and range of physical and mental illnesses. On one hand these breakthroughs will be celebrated because they might also bring along commensurate treatment options to minimize the ability for manifestation of disease. On the other hand, having only one party know information when they are filling out an application so that the insurance company can properly price a risk is definitely a recipe for a POTENTIAL mess in the insurance market. But not necessarily a huge risk today. My experience is that very little genetic testing is used or revealed. I guess on one hand I congratulate the legislature for trying to tackle a very tricky issue, but hope they approach it with great caution. This is getting a lot of attention from agents and life insurance companies. If they get it right, good for them. If they get it wrong, it could spell real trouble for life insurance products. For me, as an agent who sells, I pray they get this right.

Comments are closed.


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