Monday, December 3, 2012

HB 226: Prohibit Insurance Discrimination

Rep. Senfronia Thompson
House Bill 226 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), would prohibit using sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as the basis for discrimination in insurance. Under current law insurance providers may not deny insurance or offer a different rate of insurance based on the applicant's "race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, marital status, geographic location, disability or partial disability" unless the denial of insurance or difference in rate is based on "sound actuarial principals." HB 226 would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" to that list.

Rep. Thompson's bill is the companion to Senate Bill 73 by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston). The Texas legislature has two bodies: the House and the Senate. In order to become law a bill must be voted out of Committee and then pass two votes on the floor in both the House and the Senate. Companion bills allow for legislation to be considered by the House and the Senate at the same time, instead of having to pass one body, then the other. Which ever bill passes its body first (HB 226 in the House and SB 73 in the Senate) can then be substituted for the companion bill on the other side, regardless of where it is in the process. (So, for instance, if SB 73 passes committee and the two required votes in the Senate before HB 226 comes up for a vote on the House floor HB 226 can be set aside and SB 73 can receive a vote on the floor without having to go through the House committee.)

By having identical version of the insurance nondiscrimination bill in both the House and Senate Thompson and Ellis have increased the likelihood of the bill passing.

This is not the first time that insurance nondiscrimination has had versions filed in both the House and Senate. During the 82nd regular legislative session Roberto Alonzo (D - Dallas) filed the House version and Rep. Ellis filed the Senate version. Neither bill made it out of committee.

While Alonzo is a very capable and dedicated lawmaker it gives me great hope to see Thompson take the lead on this effort this year. Thompson is the senior-most Democrat in the Texas House and the second senior most member of the House as a whole. She is a tenacious advocate with an encyclopedic understanding of the legislative process and the unquestioned respect of her colleagues, and she doesn't take on fights she can't win.

With Thompson at the helm there is a better chance of insurance non-discrimination passing this session than ever before.

If you live in Rep. Thompson's district please take the time to thank her for her support and ask what you can do do help. You may call her at (713) 633-3390.

If you don't know who represents you go here to find out. 

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