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Holy Hell alert: Woman's insurance policy canceled because of her politics

WTF is happening in this country? An eighty-year-old pediatrician in New Hampshire had a portion of her coverage dropped by her insurer because of her political activism. And the excuse is lame – liability for the insurer. The real danger is this leaves legislators at risk for being dropped as well. Good god. (AP):

Helen Johnston is an 80-year-old retired pediatrician who hardly considers herself much of a risk for being sued. Johnston 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 Francestown politics.

Dale Groves

The Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Co. sent her a letter last month notifying her it is not renewing her $1 million umbrella policy next month due to “the political positions the insured holds.” “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.

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.

Groves said that’s enough.

“It’s a common practice within the industry not to cover that because of libel and slander (risks),” he said.

The nonrenewal letter prompted state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, Rep. Claudia Chase and Rep. John DeJoie, all Democrats, to file legislation to require insurers to cover politicians. “It’s a matter of First Amendment rights,” said DeJoie, of Concord.

DeJoie is reviewing existing law to see what if any protections there are for lawmakers.

“I as a state legislator could conceivably lose my insurance,” he said.

Most likely, DeJoie and other lawmakers don’t have coverage now against libel and slander, Groves said. Such coverage isn’t standard under the home and auto policies most people have.

…The Providence renewed Johnston’s policies covering her home and car because they don’t cover libel or slander from her political activities, Groves said. But it would not renew her $1 million umbrella policy, which, as its name suggests, kicks in for claims not covered by the narrower policies.

Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Company

Sandra G. Parrillo, CPCU

President & CEO

Here’s the Feedback form

Here’s the board of directors.

And other contact info:

The Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Company

P.O. Box 6066

Providence, Rhode Island 02940-6066

Tel : 877.763.1800

E-mail to

UPDATE: There’s a Daily Kos diary up on this by zgw.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding