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Denied: Domestic Violence Victims Have "Pre-Existing Condition"

Posted Sep 15 2009 10:23pm

According to a blog pos t on the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) site, "In DC and eight states, health insurance companies can deny coverage to victims of domestic violence because they have a "pre-existing condition."

Yes, you read that correctly. Insurance companies have looked at their profit margins and decided that, in fact, a person whose been battered and needs health care is just not good for business. Of course, as Amanda notes on Pandagon,

"Besides the immediately obvious bad effects of this---particularly since a woman who has been abused before is in serious danger of getting severely hurt by the abuser, especially if she tries to leave---there are a number of unintended consequences.  Obviously, the major one is that the fear of losing insurance coverage might drive victims to avoid reaching out for help, and it may even mean that they don’t get treatment for their injuries after an abusive incident.  And of course, the less a woman reaches out for help, the less likely she is to get out of the situation." 

It's not only domestic violence victims, of course, who are effectively shut out of our health care system because of lack of access to insurance coverage, under our current system. According to SEIU, "From cancer patients to the elderly suffering from arthritis, these organizations have padded their profit margins by limiting coverage to patients deemed "high risk" because of their medical condition." Heroine and union activist Crystal Lee Sutton ("Norma Rae") died last week after a battle with cancer in which she was forced to go two months without life-saving medication because her insurance company initially refused to pay. 

In fact, pregnancy can be and is considered a pre-existing condition to some health insurance companies. Pregnant and seeking individual health care coverage? Well, you know, theoretically insurance company execs and Republican politicians want you and your baby to be healthy (tossing around "ideas" like family values and being pro-life), but you know it just doesn't work for the bottom line. You understand, right? How would the free-market survive if women and babies were allowed access to care that might raise costs for insurance companies? In fact, all of us "healthy" folk would be penalized for your choice - your personal, individual choice to become pregnant under this system. Private industry should not have to pay for your personal decision to become pregnant or stay in a relationship in which you are a victim of domestic violence.  

All of this is to say that SEIU is spearheading its own health reform campaign aimed at Congress, with an emphasis on Republicans. Back in 2006, a group of ten Republicans voted against (!) efforts to legislate health insurance companies' despicable practice of denying coverage to domestic violence victims. SEIU is encouraging people to pass health care reform legislation and put an end, in eight states and Washington DC, to using "domestic violence victim" as a pre-existing condition. 


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