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Democrats To Fight Defining Domestic Violence as 'Pre-Existing Condition'

Posted Oct 07 2009 10:01pm

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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