Bill would prevent domestic violence insurance discrimination

A bill under consideration at the Rhode Island State House would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to domestic violence victims.

Rhode Island already protects domestic violence victims when it comes to health, life and accident insurance. The bill would protect victims when applying for homeowner, personal and car insurance.

State Sen. Hanna Gallo, D-Cranston, wrote and helped pass the bill in the Senate. A similar bill is being reviewed in the House.

"It was reported to me that there were victims that were denied insurance or it was very expensive for them so that they weren't able to afford it," Gallo said. "Even if it just happens once in a while, it's too often I believe."

Deb DeBare, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said no one has ever brought the problem to the group's attention.

The bill would prevent insurance companies from denying victims of current and past abuse coverage.

The state Department of Business Regulation monitors these practices but asked for a law to help. The department wasn't able to provide examples of it happening in Rhode Island.

In the 1990s, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence released a report giving examples of people and groups being denied homeowner's insurance and other claims because they were either victims of domestic violence or they were helping victims.

The most common cases involved abusers setting victim's homes on fire.

"It's just unfair that she shouldn't get the insurance support to rebuild her life," DeBare said. "I think this is a really good piece of legislation to try and prevent horrible things from happening to victims.

DeBare said she wants to make sure victims are not denied the chance to rebuild.

If the proposal becomes law, insurance companies would have to develop policies to protect domestic violence victim's information.

A representative from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America told NBC 10 that the group looks forward to working with the state to implement any changes.