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New Hampshire Woman Loses Umbrella Policy Because of Her Political Positions

An 80-year-old retired pediatrician is losing extra coverage she bought years ago while she still practiced medicine - not because she's a retired doctor, but...
January 20, 2005

An 80-year-old retired pediatrician is losing extra coverage she bought years ago while she still practiced medicine - not because she's a retired doctor, but because she is active in politics in her hometown of Francestown, New Hampshire. The Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Co. sent Helen Johnston a letter last month notifying her it is not renewing her $1 million umbrella policy next month because of "the political positions the insured holds." Johnston is vice chairwoman of her town's Democratic committee and a member of the Hillsborough County Democratic Committee. She helps campaigns by distributing posters and making calls, and she held a get-out-the-vote session for Howard Dean at her house.

"If she was just a retired doctor, it wouldn't be an issue," said Dale Groves, vice president for underwriting for the Providence, R.I., company. "It's a common practice within the industry not to cover that because of libel and slander (risks)."

"People thought doctors had a lot of money, and I wanted coverage if my dog bit someone," Johnston said. "My main concern is -- other than it seems terribly unjust -- that they would use such a reason to not renew a policy after so many years. People shouldn't be penalized for their political activity." Several state lawmakers say they will file legislation to require insurers to cover politicians. "It's a matter of First Amendment rights," said Rep. John DeJoie of Concord.

Woman Loses Insurance Coverage for Her Politics (Concord, N.H. Monitor 1/13/05)

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