The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site -



Opinion No. 5467

March 20, 1979


Discrimination based on sex in an insurance plan


Discrimination based on sex in an insurance plan

An insurance plan which provides that females and males pay the same premium but a female within the same age group as a male has higher coverage is prohibited.

Honorable H. Lynn Jondahl

State Representative

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan 48909

You have requested my opinion as to whether the life insurance program sponsored by Michigan State University violates the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, specifically sec. 202 of that Act, MCLA 37.2202(1)(C); MSA 3.548(202)(1)(c). This insurance program provides the following Schedule of Benefits:


Plan 1 Plan 2 Plan 3 Plan 4

Thru age 29 Thru age 34 $18,000 $30,000 $60,000 $ 90,000

30-34 35-39 16,800 28,000 56,000 84,000

35-39 40-44 15,000 25,000 50,000 75,000

40-44 45-49 12,000 20,000 40,000 60,000

45-49 50-54 7,500 12,500 25,000 37,500

50-54 55-59 4,800 8,000 16,000 24,000

55-59 60-64 3,000 5,000 10,000 15,000

60-64 2,100 3,500 7,000 10,500


For Plans For Dependent Option

Plan 1 .. $ 3.00 $ 2.50

Plan 2 .... 5.00

Plan 3 ... 10.00

Plan 4 ... 15.00

You should be aware of the fact that regardless of the impact of that particular statute on this insurance plan, any life insurance plan which provides different coverage based on sex is expressly prohibited by the Uniform Trade Practices Act, 1956 PA 218, Sec. 2001 et seq, amended by 1976 PA 273, MCLA 500.2001 et seq; MSA 24.1201 et seq. This act is Chapter 20 of the Insurance Code.

1956 PA 218, supra, Sec. 2027 provides in pertinent part as follows:

'Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the business of insurance include:

(c) Charging a different rate for the same coverage based on sex, marital status, age, residence, location of risk, handicap, or lawful occupation of the risk unless the rate differential is based on sound actuarial principles, a reasonable classification system, and is related to the actual and credible loss statistics or reasonably anticipated experience in the case of new coverages. This subdivision shall not apply if the rate has previously been approved by the commissioner.'

Although by its terms the insurance plan described above provides that females and males pay the same premium but a female within the same age group as a male has the higher coverage, the effect of this plan is that of charging a different rate for the same coverage based on sex. Therefore, the plan violates the statute. Of course, the insurer may be able to meet the statutory tests of sound actuarial principles, reasonable classification, etc., set forth in the statute. However, such a defense would have to be examined in light of the decision in City of Los Angeles v Manhart, 435 US 702; 98 S Ct 1370; 55 L Ed 2d 657 (1978). In Manhart, the Supreme Court ruled that a pension plan which paid equal benefits but exacted larger contributions from women than from men, based on the greater longevity of women as a class, was violative of sex discrimination prohibitions in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The effect of that decision was to require pension funds to adopt sex-neutral actuarial tables. Any insurance plan which justifies difference in treatment of individual men and women on sex-segregated actuarial tables would be subject to the same scrutiny as the pension plan in Manhart.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General