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Man denied insurance because partner has AIDS

November 11, 1995
Web posted at: 7:15 p.m. EST

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Mark Labonte, 36-years-old and healthy, applied for a life insurance policy in 1994. He wanted to make sure his partner, Joe Aviles, would be taken care of. But it wasn't Labonte's health the insurance company was concerned about.


"I was turned down for the insurance because my partner had AIDS."

-- Mark Labonte

"If they had rejected me for insurance I could understand that," Aviles said. "But Mark is perfectly healthy."

Denied coverage due to his partner's illness, Labonte has filed a $1 million discrimination claim against Minnesota Mutual Life Insurance Co.

"If insurance companies start evaluating insurance applications on the basis of the conduct of persons or health of persons you live with rather than your own health ... there'll be no end to it," said Paul Wotman, Labonte's attorney.

Minnesota Mutual declined an interview but issued a statement saying the company doesn't discriminate or underwrite based on sexual orientation.

Labonte has never tested positive for HIV. During a medical exam in 1993, he told his doctor his partner had AIDS, and that was noted on his medical report. It was that note which triggered the company's denial, according to a letter written by Minnesota Mutual to Labonte last March.

The letter read, in part:

"You were having sex with a partner who has AIDS. It is our opinion that this type of activity poses an increased risk for mortality which we are unable to price."

Labonte said the insurance company reported his case to the medical information bureau, a national data bank that provides information to the insurance industry. He said he is now black-balled from getting a policy elsewhere.

Minnesota Mutual denies it has revealed anything confidential about Labonte.

An industry spokesman said Labonte still has a chance. "If he goes to another company, the other company will look at his case independently and will the make the decision on their own," the spokesman said. But Labonte worries, because his partner can no longer work.

"If I get killed tomorrow, then I'm not able to care for the person I care about," he said.

The case has piqued the interest of other insurers, who want to find out if they can legally deny coverage on the basis of a partner's health.

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