Arizona Bill Plans to Have Insurance Contracts in English Prevail

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Arizona Bill Plans to Have Insurance Contracts in English Prevail
Bernadine Racoma

House Bill 2045 has passed the House and the Senate will decide its fate. Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria said that HB 2045 is for consumer protection. The bill affects insurance coverage, which many insurance agents send through the mail. They normally include a cover letter detailing the coverage and benefits the insured is entitled to. If the bill passes the Senate, Arizona residents will have to read their insurance contract up to the last page closely to ensure that they are actually getting what’s stated in the cover letter. Legislators are concerned about the actual content of the contract and not the items that are detailed in the cover page, which, more often than not, is the only thing that a policyholder normally reads.

Official language

What the House Bill is saying is that consumers should get the actual insurance coverage that is stated in the full content of the insurance contract, not the summary of coverage. In most insurance contracts or any contract for that matter that involves people speaking different languages, it is important to translate the document so that the other party can understand the contract in full. With HB 2045, if there are discrepancies in the translated insurance contract, its English version will be enforced. Nearly 73% of the population in Arizona speak English while close to 21% speak Spanish. A small numbers of the population speak Navajo, German, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, French, Arabic, Apache, Korean and other indigenous dialects.

Fearing errors in translation

Rep. Livingston added that while translating contracts is mandatory, many insurance companies are wary of having their contracts translated into other languages for fear that there might be errors in the translation and that the policyholders would claim benefits based on the translated version.

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley said that the bill makes sense because English is the official language in Arizona and the government is spending millions of dollars for public school systems to provide classes to learn the English language.

It was reiterated by Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe that the focus of the legislation is not just the foreign language but the fact that it safeguards the consumers, ensuring them they get all the benefits stated in the policy they paid for, and not only what’s stated on the declaration page of the insurance policy.

Rep. Epstein added that often, insurance policy holders only read the cover page and rely on it, without reading the entire contract. They only get to know about other benefits and/or exclusions when they make a claim.

House Democrats on the other hand believe that legislators may soon regret the idea that English is the official language in the state of Arizona and therefore other documents in foreign languages do not have any legal power.

According to Rep. Eric Descheenie, D-Chinle mentioned that the Hispanic and Latino community in Arizona, if not the entire country, will be the most populous ethnic race and that it would be better if the laws shift from being only in English and start looking at other major language groups.

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