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Ask Our Lawyer - July 2001

Q: I had an accident on my motorcycle. Unfortunately, while riding to work, a deer suddenly darted in front of me. I had nowhere to go and the resulting collision put me in the hospital with bills of over $90,000.00. Now my health insurance company is denying paying my hospital bills because I was on a motorcycle. What should I do?

A: Sue the bastards. Since Congress has passed HIPAA [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996] many insurance companies have surreptitiously inserted a provision in health insurance policies that (according to them) gives them the right to deny coverage for activities that they claim are ultra-hazardous. Many of the policies have language as follows, "No coverage is provided for ultra-hazardous activities including but not limited to motorcycling, sky-diving and auto racing."

These changes present a serious problem. However, there may be avenues of attack. First, you should send us a copy of your policy. We will examine that language to see if it complies with all laws governing insurance companies. Next we should determine if you have had proper notice of the exclusionary language denying coverage. If, for example, the policy was negotiated by your employer and you were not notified of the coverage change, that exclusion may not be enforceable. Even if you had notice, you should be given a reasonable time period in which to obtain coverage for your motorcycling activities through other sources. State statutes govern this time period.

From a public policy standpoint, the most important activity should be in the courts and the legislatures. The policy language defining motorcycling as ultra-hazardous should be challenged in any case where benefits have been denied. Motorcycling is a primary means of transportation for many of us. These unfair restrictions threaten the lives and livelihood of may of us and must be addressed. Additionally, all A.B.A.T.E. legislative outreach efforts should be mobilized to confront our legislators at the state and federal level to have this infringement of our rights redressed. If you are a member of a union, a special committee should be formed by your union to challenge the insertion of this language in any agreement between your union and your employer.

Sad to say, this type of exclusionary language is being slipped into health policies without coming to the attention of your union representatives. The best way to stop this insurance company strategy is to be aware of their actions and your rights.

We believe there are serious constitutional, legal and ethical problems with this type of insurance company strategy. If insurance companies can dictate no coverage for motorcyclists, what next? Check with your benefits coordinator immediately to see if you are affected. Let us know, too, so that we can start addressing this serious challenge to our freedoms.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: ASK OUR LAWYER, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-2850, or email to brianshadiow@abatelegal.com.