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The Longevity of Homosexuals
December 31, 2003 11:57 AM   Subscribe

The Longevity of Homosexuals - Life insurance companies advertise lower rates for lifestyle choices that positively effect mortality. No smoking. No drugs. No scuba diving and crop dusting. No criminal record. Should they be able to offer better prices to heterosexuals versus homosexuals?
posted by treywhit (45 comments total)

 
Family Research Institute, Colorado Springs, CO 80962, USA.

I'm sceptical about the authors of this study. I bet they had their conculsion before they did any "research."
posted by ArcAm at 12:06 PM on December 31, 2003


Smoking, drugs, scuba, crop dusting are all choices that were made. So far, nobody's come up with a compelling set of evidence that homosexuality is a choice that was made.

So, homosexuality isn't enough. If the insurance companies want to charge more for risky behaviours such as anal sex, then that's a charge that's just as fit to be levied on heterosexuals that indulge in those behaviours as well - and if it isn't, then *that* is discrimination.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 12:07 PM on December 31, 2003


To answer your question with a question: should homosexuals pay less tax to education authorities, on the basis that they will produce far fewer children on average, and therefore needn't support schools?

[More on researcher Paul Cameron here]
posted by dash_slot- at 12:10 PM on December 31, 2003


Should they be able to offer better prices to heterosexuals versus homosexuals?

I'll be the first in line to apply to be an 'adjuster' for this category.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:13 PM on December 31, 2003


Thanks for the background on Paul Cameron. That sheds a whole different light on the question raised by the columnist.
posted by treywhit at 12:17 PM on December 31, 2003


Family Research Institute, Colorado Springs, CO 80962, USA.

There is evidence that homosexuality, like drug use is "handed down" from older individuals.

He's a typical nutjob. Next.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:17 PM on December 31, 2003


First of all, It's not a lifestyle choice--and second--it's already been done (old link from 92-scroll down to end) and may still be: many gay zipcodes (Chelsea in NYC; Castro in SF, etc) were/are redlined by insurance companies--a blatantly discriminatory move.

And I thought biased op-eds were frowned upon, no? Townhall is entirely made up of those.
posted by amberglow at 12:20 PM on December 31, 2003


I'm not pushing a viewpoint here, but life insurance companies take into account pre-existing health conditions all the time. If one has a genetic predisposition toward homosexuality, I could see them claiming that it's no different than any other genetic predisposition that factors into their actuarial tables.

Anyone know if I get a higher life insurance rate because I'm left-handed?
posted by kfury at 12:21 PM on December 31, 2003


Gender isn't a choice either. Is that any less discriminatory?
posted by kfury at 12:22 PM on December 31, 2003


"Should they be able to offer better prices to heterosexuals versus homosexuals?"

No. If people are targeted for higher rates based on certain behavior, their rates should be based on the behavior, and not something as arbitrary as one's orientation.

Besides, I know plenty of people whose orientations are fluid -- who thought they were straight/gay/bi until they met the right person. How can insurance companies fairly represent such people? Can they re-apply as straight later? How would they handle someone who had a sex change?

Obviously, there are no hard and fast rules for this territory...
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:24 PM on December 31, 2003


Smoking, drugs, scuba, crop dusting are all choices that were made. So far, nobody's come up with a compelling set of evidence that homosexuality is a choice that was made.

All sexual activity (except being raped) is a choice, whether or not sexual orientation/disposition is.

And if insurance companies can discriminate on gender -- as they clearly do, and is about as non-chosen as human traits come -- then sexual preference/activity would clearly be fair game.

should homosexuals pay less tax to education authorities, on the basis that they will produce far fewer children on average, and therefore needn't support schools?

In the first place, there's a large difference between a large private entity offering a commercial service (which they can choose to offer or not offer to anyone) and a public entity.

And in general, the argument of having to pay less taxes for a service you don't use is really problematic. We'd have couch potatoes opting out of tax funding for national parks, rich people opting out of funding for any kind of social services, sane people opting out funding for mental hospitals, clock-punchers opting out of funding for entreprenurial incubators, illiterate people opting out of funding for public libraries... and right wing fundies opting out of funding for AIDS.
posted by namespan at 12:33 PM on December 31, 2003


"If one has a genetic predisposition toward homosexuality, I could see them claiming that it's no different than any other genetic predisposition..."

Homosexuality isn't just genetic, but even if it were, that doesn't mean that homosexuals are genetically predisposed to smoke.

By your argument, the insurance companies should also insist on a testosterone screenings in order to determine those at a higher risk a higher risk of driving fast and eating red meat.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:34 PM on December 31, 2003


> the insurance companies should also insist on a testosterone screenings

They already do essentially that. Check out your car insurance rates if you're a member of the group "teenage males," no matter how clean and shiny your personal driving record is.
posted by jfuller at 12:49 PM on December 31, 2003


Besides, I know plenty of people whose orientations are fluid -- who thought they were straight/gay/bi until they met the right person. How can insurance companies fairly represent such people? Can they re-apply as straight later? How would they handle someone who had a sex change?

Probably the same way the identify every other trait they correlate with a payout risk -- by asking you directly, by checking whatever records they have available, and then adjusting your rates according to the statistics they have in the actuarial tables.

many gay zipcodes (Chelsea in NYC; Castro in SF, etc) were/are redlined by insurance companies--a blatantly discriminatory move.

My car insurance practically doubled when I moved from Utah to LA, a fact that drives me crazy. Am I any worse of a driver? No. Hey, I don't even have to worry about some of the insane winter road conditions brought on by weather back home, and I'm probably more attentive to what's going on here. After a while, though, I realized it's not because they hate me, or are discriminating against me. It's because they're greedy as hell and prevailing conditions in the area and probability being what they are, they have to charge somebody more to make up for conditions that (in theory, at least) cause a higher accident rate in LA.

Purely statistically speaking, it's possible that gay men are at a higher risk for certain health problems than anyone else. If that's true (and it does seem to be), and those gay men tend to habitate in certain zip codes, then without even knowing those men are gay, an insurance company could correlate those health problems with the zip code. Not out of hate. Just math and desire to make a profit.

If there's any problem here, it's the prominence of the profit motive in health care. Which is a whole 'nother discussion.
.
posted by namespan at 12:51 PM on December 31, 2003


From the article:

"Here's my question: How come life insurance companies don't advertise lower life insurance premiums for heterosexuals? After all, life insurance companies do ask applicants about other forms of behavior that have an impact on life expectancy, such as: Are you a pilot? Do you abuse alcohol and drugs? And do you have DUI arrests? Why not also: Are you a homosexual?"

My response:

Homosexuality isn't a behavior. It's not something you do. You can be a homosexual without having same-sex relations. You can be a homosexual without having sex at all. (I did that myself for way too long!)

namespan: All sexual activity (except being raped) is a choice, whether or not sexual orientation/disposition is.

Exactly. Again, though, the author of the article isn't referring to homosexual behavior (whatever that is, exactly) but the state of being attracted to members of the same sex.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:55 PM on December 31, 2003


Discrimination is rife in the realm of insurance.
Females and males are treated differently. As someone's already said, teenage male drivers are heavily discriminated against/ seen as a liability.

The insurance industry had its fingers in its ears, going "La la la", when Martin Luther King, was saying we should be judged on the basis of our characters, not some other aspect of our being.

Do they care that young Johnny is cautious and timid in his driving, rather than a testosterone-fuelled fool? Does it heckaslike.

If they're drawing lines between young males and older males, males and females, why not straight and gay males; straight and gay females?

As far as consistency goes, it would fit.

The only questions are: do we draw a line, and if so, where do we draw it?

I'm sure the insurance industry would love to genetially profile each of its customers to sort the expensive customers from the cheap, the profitable ones from the liabilities.

Do we as a society want to let this happen? And if not, where should we draw the line?
posted by Blue Stone at 1:14 PM on December 31, 2003


as others have noted, insurance companise discriminate on gender, so any argument based on sexuality being something you "don't choose" has little weight.

i've wondered about this before (i can't remember the context, but i don't think it was sexuality), and it seems to me that what is and isn't used depends largely on what is acceptable, legal, practicable and profitable. in the end they all come down to profitable (via fines, people chosing to shop elsewhere, etc).

so unless the usa specifically has laws that prohibit different insurance ratings based on sexuality (which i doubt, given the possibility to discriminate on gender - the article mentions "lifestyle discrimination", but i'm not sure that's based in law), there seem to be three options:

- this does occur, and people haven't noticed (ie it's done indirectly, as mentioned above)

- it's not considered viable because it would be too difficult to implement/enforce

- it's judged socially unacceptable - the companies judge that it would offend people / cause a scandal.

i would guess that it's a combination of the first and third - companies do it on the quiet, indirectly, and don't advertise the fact because they don't want to be seen as "discriminatory" (and by using indirect methods they avoid the second problem).

i don't know if ethnicity affects any risks, but if so you'd expect the same to happen there.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:17 PM on December 31, 2003


ps in addition to what blue stone says (which i agree with but i didn't see before posting) you also need to fold in (legally mandated) transparency. society can disapprove of this all it likes, but if the selection is indirect and invisible it will still happen (to some, possibly lesser, extent).
posted by andrew cooke at 1:23 PM on December 31, 2003


(Neglecting the specific angle of different rates for gays, etc) Was I the only one who thought the author of the first article was being a wee bit simplistic through and through. His analogy of always shopping for the lowest price bugged me. All I could think was, 'you get what you pay for'.

As for the rest. . . Yeah they are insurance companies. They suck; what were you expecting.

On preview, andrew cooke: Exactly. Even if they don't do it directly, they will find a more subtle way.
posted by tcaleb at 1:27 PM on December 31, 2003


Ok. Charge the gay more--they have more disposable income and can afford it. Next:bi-sexuals and lesbians?
posted by Postroad at 1:31 PM on December 31, 2003


metatalk
posted by PrinceValium at 1:34 PM on December 31, 2003


"I'm sceptical about the authors of this study."

Walter Williams' motor home story is an urban legend, as well.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:40 PM on December 31, 2003


I've often thought insurance companies should be forced to publish their actuarial tables, andrew.
posted by namespan at 1:41 PM on December 31, 2003


That's a myth, postroad--but even if it was true, then you would have to charge ALL richer people more, straight or gay...
posted by amberglow at 1:48 PM on December 31, 2003


Well, obviously this "study" is complete bunk. The larger issue, discrimination in insurance, is important and worth discussing. Insurance companies discriminate all the time based on gender, age, and a whole range of categories. Ideally, of course, this discrimination would be based on actual behavior, but that's impossible for insurance companies to monitor. As a result, these categories are developed to act as proxies for actual behavior.

Remeber this: insurance companies are in this business to make a profit. We are all gambling on our health, our cars, our homes by buying insurance policies. The insurance company is the house, and the house will always win. They calculate the odds, and it's in their best interests to know these odds as exactly as possible. If they charge teenage males more for car insurance, it's because they damn well know that members of that category are going to cost them more in the long run. Does that mean that any single individual teenage male will get in a car accident? Of course not. On average, though, teenage males cost more to insure because they are indeed more likely to be involved in costly accidents.

The importance of profit in this particular industry should make one thing clear: any discrimination based on gender, age, or sexual orientation is not based on personel animus or prejudice. It's based solely on money, and that keeps the insurance companies honest, at least in terms of the premium differentials across categories. If the insurance companies charged homosexuals more for life or health insurance, it's because they're betting on the homosexuals costing them more money. That bet would be based on facts and studies designed to make the insurance company optimally competitive in the market place, not some hack political "study" like the one linked. If the insurance company was charging homosexuals more without a solid factual basis, other insurance companies would fill the price gap, undercutting the first company's prices until a price is reached which balanced the risk borne by the insurance company against the need to compete against others.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:01 PM on December 31, 2003


You can be a homosexual without having sex at all. (I did that myself for way too long!)

Amen, brother.

Anyway, I'm intersted in their data sources. Sure, looking in the gay press for obits you'll find entries for those who had lived with HIV/AIDS. But in my hometown paper, the chances of reading something like: "Bob was a devoted Merchant Marine, Square Dancer and avid homosexual" just aren't that high. For too many obvious reasons to mention, and most already have, this is a dubious study lending a dubious industry yet another greasy hand.
posted by moonbird at 2:16 PM on December 31, 2003


In the first place, there's a large difference between a large private entity offering a commercial service (which they can choose to offer or not offer to anyone) and a public entity.

No, there isn't. The reason being: you are required by law to have insurance in many cases, primarily in automobile and vehicle insurance.

It isn't right for any insurance company to change rates based on sex or sexual orientation. Basically, anything that is not a choice should not be allowed to affect insurance rates.

Should homosexuals not have to pay education taxes because they produce no children? Of course they should have to pay, education isn't just for an individuals children, but for everyone's children, and the bettering of society. This is despite what other people seem to think, ie. "my kids are grown, why should I keep having to pay money to schools."
posted by benjh at 2:21 PM on December 31, 2003


If the insurance company was charging homosexuals more without a solid factual basis, other insurance companies would fill the price gap, undercutting the first company's prices until a price is reached which balanced the risk borne by the insurance company against the need to compete against others.

monju, I agree with everything you say up to this point, but it's hard for me to believe competition works in the health insurance industry. There's not much of a chance to take your business elsewhere if you're not satisfied. Group insurance offered through your place of work is the rule, and you can't just switch. The number of plans available to individuals in my state is small, and grows much smaller if you want it to be portable to most other states. But assuming you've bought an individual plan, it's almost impossible for consumers to compare on quality of service, because usually, by the time you really need an insurance company, you have been marked as someone who should not be insured.

I can almost believe that another company would cut in and compete on a fat-margin market, and maybe that's the sole saving grace of markets in this situation. But it's equally plausible to me that insurance companies could and would collude to keep prices high, much in the same way the record company cartel has.
posted by weston at 2:31 PM on December 31, 2003


No, there isn't. The reason being: you are required by law to have insurance in many cases, primarily in automobile and vehicle insurance.

We're primarily talking about health insurance here. But even so...

It isn't right for any insurance company to change rates based on sex or sexual orientation. Basically, anything that is not a choice should not be allowed to affect insurance rates.

Again: all sexual behavior is a choice. This isn't even strictly a gay issue -- risky behavior can be a problem for those who consider themselves gay, or straight, or both. And the insurance companies are pretty much interested in it (and faced with what to do about it) in much the same way they're interested in smoking behavior, in whether or not I rock climb, and height-weight ratios.

And then: what monju_bosatsu said. It would be much fairer if insurance companies set rates on actual behavior over demographic profile characteristics. But that would entail watching us all the time. So instead they use demographics (in addition to asking us questions they assume we'll answer honestly).
posted by namespan at 2:47 PM on December 31, 2003


which is so _TOTALLY_ moronic as scuba diving is a relatively safe activity.
posted by 11235813 at 3:09 PM on December 31, 2003


Group insurance offered through your place of work is the rule, and you can't just switch.

I think this helps my argument, rather than hurting it. Group plans mean insurance companies aren't dealing with single individuals, they're negotiating rates with an entire company, which is often shouldering a portion of the insurance costs along with their employees. For example, I receive insurance through my employer, and every lawyer in my firm pays the same amount for insurance--man or women, young or old, straight or gay.

Group insurance means two things: First, the insurance company has already negotiated a price it charges the company before you ever start work. Therefore, you receive insurance at a price point independant of your actuarial value. The insurance company, then, is charging a cost to the firm that reflects the estimated aggregate risk of the lawyers insured.

Second, the firm pays a portion of the costs, and therefore has a strong incentive to negotiate for the best price from the insurance company. If the insurance company assumes that a certain portion of the firm is gay, and inflates the premium based on some notion that gays are more risky to insure, there is no way for the firm to know that. However, the firm does see the final price, and if that price is inflated, the firm will know it. It might not know why, but it will see that the insurance company is charging a higher price. At that point, it can negotiate for the best deal it can get.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:38 PM on December 31, 2003


Therefore, lesbians should pay the least--they're women and they are even less likely than gay men or heterosexuals to get sexually transmitted diseases.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:56 PM on December 31, 2003


For example, I receive insurance through my employer, and every lawyer in my firm pays the same amount for insurance--man or women, young or old, straight or gay.

The vantage point of a law firm might be a skewed one from which to view the process of an employer negotiating with an insurance company on a benefits package....

Just sayin'.
posted by namespan at 4:31 PM on December 31, 2003


Well, they have diffrent insurance rates for men and women. And while homosexuality may not be a choice, you do need to chose to engage in the behavor.



But whatever, how would the insurance companies know anyway?
posted by delmoi at 6:01 PM on December 31, 2003


delmoi, it's not that they would know, it's that they would assume. In the context of group insurance policies provided to large employers, insurance companies have to aggregate the risk posed by insuring all of the employees. They can't know ahead of time exactly what proportion of the employees will be men or women, young or old, gay or straight, so they have to predict, or basically create a statistical model of the body of employees at the insured employer. A company might estimate that, say, 4% of a given insured's employees are gay, and adjust the aggregate price accordingly.

Fundamentally, the question is whether homosexuals really are prone to greater medical expenses than other categories of insured individuals. I think that's a dubious proposition at best, and I'd be surprised if many insurance companies worry too much about it.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:15 PM on December 31, 2003


1. The argument about homosexual people paying less in education taxes because of statistically less children:

Hell no. How stupid is that? Everyone regardless of who they are need to pay together, because everyone is affected when the High school down the block takes out computer class, while an anonymous donor makes it damn clear he wants that 500 grand to go straight to astroturf.

2. Insurance companies charging more or less upon a persons sexuality:

Something like that is not their business, smoking is.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:26 PM on December 31, 2003


My company offers a health insurance policy that allows employees to cover their domestic partners (same sex or opposite sex). The only difference between what I paid to cover my same-sex domestic partner vs. what I would pay to cover an opposite-sex person that I was legally married to was due to federal tax law; my company provides X dollars to each employee to cover their portion of the health insurance premium, and if you are covering a domestic partner, the dollars for the partner are taxed, whereas if you are covering a legal spouse, those dollars are not taxed.

In any case, my premium is exactly the same as that of any other person at my company, regardless of any risk factors. Group health plans are based on an aggregate price model, which was previously mentioned in this thread. In my experience, they don't even take pre-existing conditions into account, because the employer negotiates a policy that will cover each employee, regardless of risk factors or pre-existing conditions. Independent insurance, however, is a whole different ballgame.
posted by bedhead at 7:44 PM on December 31, 2003


if you are covering a domestic partner, the dollars for the partner are taxed, whereas if you are covering a legal spouse, those dollars are not taxed.

Now That's What I call Discrimination, Vol. I
posted by dash_slot- at 7:58 PM on December 31, 2003


Maybe gay people die earlier: (that's a fair argument to have) actuaries need to make arguments based on whether or not early death benefits vs. prolonged geriatric illness costs are in balance. That is not what they do, currently.

Not to mention if we as a community have an obligation to our fellow (man, woman, child).
posted by dash_slot- at 8:05 PM on December 31, 2003


Now That's What I call Discrimination, Vol. I

I agree, but that's a federal taxation issue, not a private insurance carrier issue. Maybe I should use that as a basis for a discrimination lawsuit. If I could've just married my partner, I wouldn't have been taxed.

Also, I could just go to Las Vegas right now and marry some guy I just met, add him to my insurance coverage, and not be taxed on the coverage dollars. If I want to cover a domestic partner, he or she has to be living with me for at least one year and we have to sign an affidavit stating that we are financially interdependent (we have a joint bank account, or a lease, or something of that nature). However, I always have the option of marrying a male domestic partner, but can't marry a female domestic partner.. voila! Discrimination!

/derail
posted by bedhead at 8:25 PM on December 31, 2003


Fundamentally, the question is whether homosexuals really are prone to greater medical expenses than other categories of insured individuals. I think that's a dubious proposition at best, and I'd be surprised if many insurance companies worry too much about it.

Uh, except for that whole AIDS pandemic. Dumbass.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:51 PM on December 31, 2003


I'd liken promiscuity (of any sexual persuasion) to smoking in terms of a health risk, so if they're screening in terms of health risking behaviour, the questions should take that form. Except that that's a whole other can of worms.

The question "are you a homosexual" would belong in the category with "are you male or female" and "how old are you", since they are all biologically determined conditions. And they already do ask about gender and age. As has been pointed out in this thread, insurance risk assessment already is discriminatory - the question is, where do we draw the line?
posted by orange swan at 3:49 AM on January 1, 2004


I think insurance companies discriminate against gays because, like everyone else, they're homophobic... except for the gay insurance companies of course. It's obvious to just about everyone here, especially the homosexuals, that insurance companies who charge different rates to gays and lesbians are doing so based on nothing more than ignorance and a hatred for queers. Any actual data they may have has probably been tampered with in an effort to bolster the lie that homosexuals represent increased risks in certain areas that require consideration when offering insurances rates.

Sheesh... life would be so much easier if we were all gay.
posted by Witty at 12:55 PM on January 1, 2004


I think insurance companies discriminate against gays because, like everyone else, they're homophobic...

I just don't buy that. That's like saying that any insurance company that charges women higher premiums do so because they are misogynistic. That's just not the case. Like I said above, insurance companies are out to make a profit, and discriminate only on a verifiable actuarial basis. If they discriminate on unfounded grounds on a regular basis they are going to get undercut in the market.

Any actual data they may have has probably been tampered with in an effort to bolster the lie that homosexuals represent increased risks in certain areas that require consideration when offering insurances rates.

Do you know that for sure? I made the same comment above, essentially, but now that I think about it, the AIDS epidemic has had to have a huge effect on the average longevity and medical expenses of gays. Although the trend of increasing AIDS cases among heterosexuals has begun to offset the difference, the truth is that the highest rate of AIDS casualties in the United States is, by far, in the gay community. If gay men have, on average, shorter lives, and as a result pay premiums for fewer years, doesn't it make sense to charge them higher premiums to offset the lower lifetime payments?

The truth is, life insurance companies discriminate based on longevity. Sexual orientation is only one of the proxies that might be used to estimate longevity. If it's a poor proxy, the insurance companies that rely on it will suffer from poor predictions, and as a result, will fail in adequately matching rates to risk. Those companies will suffer in the marketplace against companies that do a better job of estimating that risk.

The fundamental question, then, is whether sexual orientation really correlates with longevity? If it has in the past, because of the AIDS epidemic, will it continue to do so in the future, given the changing patterns of AIDS infection?

Sheesh... life would be so much easier if we were all gay.

Well, I think we can all agree on that.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:11 PM on January 1, 2004


Insurance companies are more likely to use accurate statistics to judge rates than anything else - inaccurate statistics would hurt their business, as competitors with less biased statistics would be making more per customer. Since it's possible to shop around in a capitalist system, the company using the numbers that gives the most rewards with the fewest claims would win in the end, as they'd be able to scoop up all of the savvy "gay" market, and make a ton of profit. I don't consider it morally wrong to discriminate if you have real working numbers clearly proving the differences between the groups. I imagine that if one sued the companies for discrimination, they'd actually pull out a file comparing the claim rates of heterosexuals vs. homosexuals adjusted for all other factors.

However, it's too easy to lie about sexual orientation on the form (it's incredibly difficult to lie about one's gender, which is how that situation differs.) Since there are no tests to determine whether one is a homosexual/heterosexual, and logically everyone who applies for insurance would indicate that he were a heterosexual (since the rate for heterosexuals is lower) unless he were in a civil union/marriage, the insurance companies cannot outright *ask* whether you're a homosexual, because there's few ways to prove that on paper. It'd be meaningless to ask that question; that's why they choose to discriminate based upon zip code.

Unfortunately, one of the consequences of gay marriage is going to be that insurance companies will have surefire way of determining whether one is a homosexual, and I imagine the married gay man's life insurance rates will SOAR.

*I refer only to male homosexuals in this argument because I somehow seriously doubt lesbians have an AIDS problem, but I'm too lazy to look up those numbers.
posted by Veritron at 11:28 AM on January 2, 2004


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