Democrats To Fight Defining Domestic Violence as ‘Pre-Existing Condition’


House Democrats, yesterday, vowed to ban insurance companies from using  "domestic violence" as a pre-existing condition, barring coverage for battered women.

It’s a despicable practice that is still allowable in 8 states, as well as Washington DC. 

From CNN:

"Think of this," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. "You’ve survived
domestic violence, and now you are discriminated [against] in the
insurance market because you have a pre-existing medical condition.
Well, that will all be gone."

But if Democrats have their way, health care reform legislation will include prohibition of this practice, as part of a larger ban on the use of pre-existing conditions, by insurance companies, to deny health insurance coverage. 

As we’ve written on RH Reality Check recently, both pregnancy and cesarean sections are categorized as pre-existing conditions by some insurers. As Jodi Jacobson notes in her post, Think Progress reported recently that most individual insurance markets don’t cover maternity care either. 

Senator Murray introduced a bill back in 2006 to ban the practice of using domestic violence as an excuse to deny insurance coverage to battered women but couldn’t get the bill  passed. In fact, as SEIU notes, a group of Republicans voted against this ban. In an effort to explain why, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, at the time, said of the ban, it is "deplorable to deny
coverage to victims of domestic violence. However, states should be
responsible for regulating insurance markets."

While it’s unclear how often women who have suffered domestic violence are being denied coverage, CNN quotes Judith Waxman of the National Women’s Law Center as saying, "But our point is, it’s the kind of thing insurance companies look to
do. … They will find ways in the current situation to deny people
care if they find anything wrong with them." 

Enacting this ban will remove one obstacle for victims of domestic violence to obtain the help they need. It’s critical that we remove barriers for women who are fearful of reporting the crime committed against them and therefore may not get help at all. As Dana Goldstein writes on TAPPED, "On the whole, domestic violence is down between 1993 and 2008. But…female domestic violence victims are especially wary of law
enforcement, fearful of reprisal from their abusers, and must battle a
cycle of shame and self-doubt before they seek help. About half never
do."

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  • equalist

    As a survivor of domestic violence, I can say with confidence that getting help is incredibly difficult to begin with, but to fear losing health coverage entirely if it is reported only victimizes these women (and men) even more. It’s hard enough to have to decide whether to risk telling someone because of what might happen at home, but to then on top of that have to worry about getting beaten again or worse with no way to get medical help is just sick. At the very least, it’s one more proof that the entire health care system needs drastic reform and quickly. It’s time for people to stop their selfish worries about their own pocketbooks and start worrying about real people with real health problems and no recourse. In the time I was with my ex, my jaw was dislocated twice, and I was beaten unconscious more than once. I often had bruises the size of dinner plates all over my body. All this happened while I was pregnant with both of my daughters. I had no fear of losing my health care over the abuse I was suffering because quite simply, I wasn’t aware that this was a risk, but the question is this, how many victims of domestic violence are more likely to avoid seeking routine medical care for fear of losing their health coverage if the bruises are seen? How many of them will risk avoiding important prenatal visits in order to keep the coverage to pay for the birth of their child? Having to chose between medicine and which bills to pay this month is horrible enough, but for a victim of domestic violence, having to make the already hard choice of risking her (or his) very life if the abuse is discovered, and then to add that if they do manage to survive, their health care could be denied is sick and twisted, and yet another proof that women are devalued in this society (as, while some men do suffer abuse by their partners, domestic violence is still seen as an almost entirely male on female crime).

    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.