Insurance Discrimination: a Bi-fold Problem by A.J. Walkley

Over the course of the past year, I have been met with two different walls erected by insurance companies – one based on the topics I write about for the public eye, and the other based on my history of anxiety and depression stemming from coming to terms with my sexuality back in high school.
Late in 2013, I called up the company I use for renter’s insurance to extend my policy. I wanted an umbrella policy and was told it was a simple process. Among the questions the agent asked for my application was whether I used my apartment for anything work-related. Being forthcoming, I mentioned that I was a writer, an author, and that my apartment was the primary location I wrote from. This led to questions regarding the content I wrote about. Again, I obliged without a second thought, detailing my books and blogging related to the LGBT and specifically bisexual communities, as well as my YA novel about abortion. All of these gave the agent pause and she hesitantly told me to wait on the line while she checked on something. When she came back on, she regretfully said that I was “too much of a risk” and that I would not be approved for the policy.
“What do you mean too much of a risk?” I asked her.
“Well, um, you see the topics you write about? They could attract, um, negative attention that could, well, lead to greater insurance risks…”
This gave me pause. Other than some trolls online, negative comments on my Huffington Post blogs and maybe a bad review here and there based on my content instead of my writing abilities, I had never been threatened, never had anyone throw a brick through my window or anything of the sort.
“Listen, it’s not like I’m J.K. Rowling or Stephen King over here. I barely make a profit on my books, not many people know me,” I tried to reason with her. “I’m not even traditionally published. I don’t really see how I could be a risk at this point.”
The agent apologized and that was that – nothing more for me to do.
This situation has been weighing on me, but considering other things that have taken more of my attention in the ensuing months, I kind of let it fall by the wayside. Until just this past weekend when the second insurance issue came in the mail.
The insurance company I use through my day-time employer sent me a letter declining short term disability coverage based on my “history of anxiety/depression.”  I have been treated for both since the 9th grade when I was just starting to realize my bisexuality. I didn’t even know the anxiety and depression was stemming from this until years later, but the point is that I have been dealing with both of these issues for the majority of my life. Through talk therapy and medication, I have managed both fairly well and can honestly say that neither has ever impacted my working life. I have never missed a day of work because of these conditions and, to be sure, they are not the reason I applied for short term disability insurance whatsoever.
As a matter of fact, the sole reason I applied was in anticipation of the possibility that in the next year or two I might need to take maternity leave and this insurance is the only way I can take such and make at least a little bit of money during my time off.  In Arizona, where I currently live and work, there is no state short term disability insurance – you must purchase privately to qualify for such benefits.  There is no separate policy formaternity leave, either; if I want to be paid something should I need to take a maternity leave in the future, the only way is through short term disability.
I never for once thought my mental health issues could impact this. Maybe that was naïve of me, but when I opened up that letter last weekend, I was thrown for a loop. Since I can’t afford to take unpaid time off, this letter essentially told me I could not have a baby.
Now, I’m in an impossible situation. If I appeal my decision and I tell the company the reason I applied in the first place, I’m worried they will still deny me because they won’t want to pay for maternity leave if they know about it ahead of time. All I can possibly do is assure them I have never nor do I anticipate ever needing to take time off for my anxiety or depression. Who thinks they’ll believe me?
I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place on both counts with seemingly no action to take that might end in a positive conclusion.

I’m curious to hear from others on such issues – has anyone else ever dealt with seeming discrimination from insurance companies, either due to your views on certain issues or a prior mental health concern? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. 


  1. Just wow! You are such a great voice. Your story is a bi health awareness autobiographic moment. You & Faith are speaking basic truths about us by us. Frankly, you are helping me because I should be back in counseling myself. Being open about that is as important as us being open about our bisexuality.

  2. Thanks so much, John. I think it's important these types of issues are spoken about publicly as I am sure I'm not the only one who has, is, or will be dealing with such.

  3. What John said, above, and this is all outrageous. I LOVE your writing! And you&#39;ll make a great parent. The insurance industry is sick sick sick. ACT-UP, fight back, as we say.<br />

  4. Thanks, Loraine! Something must be done on all fronts. It truly is outrageous!

  5. Very interesting, thank you for sharing. I am an insurance professional (ducking in case anyone throws something!) and I have a few thoughts. <br /><br />Regarding the renter&#39;s insurance – that&#39;s bullshit. I would simply take your business to another company. I&#39;m glad you&#39;re speaking up about it because it&#39;s crazy for them to turn you down for that. I would consider filing a

  6. Hi Fran, thanks so much for this information. I will definitely be filing a complaint regarding the first issue and I hear you about the second. It had never been a problem when I was living/working in CT or CA, so I&#39;m curious whether being in AZ is what made the difference. Looks like I&#39;ll need to start living hand-to-mouth to put away enough money to make maternity leave work in the

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