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XXXXXXX: This letter is in response to your inquiry about whether developmentally disabled children are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the "ADA"), and if so, whether it prevents discrimination by companies that provide health insurance. I apologize for the delay in our response. The ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities having rights or obligations under the Act. This letter provides informal guidance to assist you in understanding the ADA's requirements. However, it does not constitute a legal interpretation or legal advice, and it is not binding on the Department of Justice. Your letter inquires first about whether children with developmental disabilities are considered individuals with disabilities and are covered by the ADA. Under the ADA, the definition of "disability" includes any physical or mental condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, learning, or working. Thus, it appears that the mental or physical condition of your XXXXX would be considered a disability within the meaning of the ADA, and that they would be entitled to its protections against discrimination. You correctly point out in your letter that in providing goods and services, public accommodations may not discriminate on the basis of disability. With respect to the purchase of insurance, the ADA allows insurance companies to charge more for insurance, or to refuse to insure someone with a disability, only if the higher charges or refusal to provide coverage is based on
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sound actuarial data and principles, and not on speculation. Thus, while the ADA does provide some protection for individuals with disabilities in their dealings with insurance companies, it does not prohibit the use of legitimate actuarial considerations. The laws of your State may provide different or additional protections for your children, and you may want to inquire with the appropriate State officials in Texas. Enclosed for your information is a copy of the Department of Justice's Technical Assistance Manual for title III of the ADA. It discusses the definition of disability on pages 8-10, and the requirements applicable to insurance companies on pages 18-19. I hope this information is useful to you in understanding the requirements of the ADA. Sincerely,
John L. Wodatch Chief Public Access Section Enclosure Title III Technical Assistance Manual