Blake won for “Ensuring an Underclass: Stigma in Insurance,” which will be published in the Cardozo Law Review this year.
In her article, Blake points out that the cost and coverage of insurance—whether it be car, life, housing, health, or disability insurance—varies by social factors like sexual orientation, age or gender, even though such discrimination is not allowed in other settings. Insurers defend this practice on the basis that some social groups are costlier to insure than others.
Using social science research, Blake argues that insurers are prone to the same biases as everyone else and are relying on stereotypes, rather than objective math, to decide insurance rates and coverage. The result is that the same social groups who suffer discrimination elsewhere in life also suffer insurance discrimination. Laws and regulations are needed to address and minimize this harm, she asserts.
The WVU Law Significant Scholarship Award is presented annually by the faculty to a fellow professor whose written work addresses an important public issue while demonstrating thorough research and clear and concise writing.
“This year, we had a number of great submissions from our faculty, but Valarie’s work stood out as timely and dealing with an area of law that was important for not only West Virginia but the whole country,” said Shine Tu , associate dean for faculty research and development. “As with all our submissions, the analysis was deep and thoughtful."
Blake’s legal scholarship focuses on intersections between health care delivery and ethics. She has served as an ethics senior research associate for the American Medical Association (AMA), where she engaged in research and policy-making efforts related to the AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics. She has also worked at the Cleveland Clinic as an advanced bioethics fellow providing bedside ethics consultation, research teaching and service in the areas of law, ethics and professionalism.
Blake joined the WVU Law faculty in 2015. She earned her J.D. in 2009 from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and she holds a master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University.