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Say Insurance Company Seeking to Screen Out AIDS Victims

October 7, 1985

DALLAS (AP) _ An insurance company has advised underwriters to examine applicants’ ″lifestyle, habits or medical history″ to help screen out possible AIDS victims, according to a published report.

The memo from Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. to health and life insurance underwriters suggested they use marital status as an indicator of possible homosexuality, the Dallas Times Herald reported Sunday.

The memo said age and residence also could be used to screen single and divorced men, referring to men between the ages of 20 and 49 who live in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and ″probably″ Houston, Miami and Newark, N.J.

It also said underwriters should flag applicants ″if lifestyle, habits or medical history suggest a person is in one of the AIDS risk groups,″ and discussed the value of using an AIDS virus screening test on applicants.

Some consumer rights advocates said the extra scrutiny could result in employment discrimination because of concerns about group insurance rates.

″The heterosexual single male is going to find himself lumped in there,″ said Mike Richards, an insurance agent and board member of the Dallas Gay Alliance.

Al Parsons, a spokesman for the Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Lincoln National, defended the suggestions, and noted the high medical costs often incurred in treatment of AIDS.

″Do you personally want to pay for people who have AIDS?″ Parsons asked. ″Should it be paid by taxes? We are not a public organization. We are a private insurer.″

However Bill Forsythe, media relations consultant for Lincoln National Corp. said Lincoln does not discriminate against homosexuals and treats AIDS like any other medical catastrophe. Lincoln National Corp. is a holding company for Lincoln Life.

He said that to his knowledge the memo did not suggest that underwriters use marital status as an indicator of possible homosexuality.

The memo told underwriters what AIDS is and what a serious issue it is for insurance companies, Forsythe said.

Lincoln has paid out more than $1 million for 56 AIDS claims this year, he said.

Rob Bier, a spokesman for the American Council of Life Insurance and the Health Insurance Association, said Lincoln’s views were typical of the industry. The 630-member council represents 95 percent of the nation’s life insurers.

Ron Landsman, counsel for the National Insurance Consumer Organization, a Ralph Nader consumer advocate group in Washington, said the insurance industry does ″utterly capricious ... utterly unfair things all the time.″

″If they spot a risk,″ he said, ″they want to get rid of everyone who might be risky, and they don’t care what the costs are.″

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome is an affliction in which the body’s immune system becomes unable to resist disease. As of Sept. 30, AIDS had struck 13,611 people in the United States and claimed 6,944 lives since 1979.

Those most at risk are homosexual males, intravenous drug users and hemophiliacs.

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