Another Blow For Battered Women: Health Insurers Deny Coverage for Victims

One in four women will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime.

Twenty to thirty-five percent of emergency visits are made by women as a result of domestic violence.

These are startling statistics, but what’s even more shocking is the fact that abuse can be labeled by health insurance companies as a “pre-existing condition” as a means to deny battered women coverage.

While the majority of states have laws in place to prohibit health insurers from doing this, eight states including Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming and the District of Columbia do not. In these states it is legal for health insurance companies to deny victims of domestic abuse coverage.

What’s worse is that the fear of being denied health insurance silences many victims from reporting violence, trapping them in abusive relationships. For women with children, the risks are greater. Losing insurance for a mother often denies her children coverage unless she remains with her abusive partner.

While there has been no recent research of how often battered women are denied coverage, an informal survey by the Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee staff (1994) found that eight of the 16 largest U.S. insurers used domestic violence as a factor in deciding whether or not to offer insurance coverage and how much to charge.

The last thing that a battered woman should have to worry about after suffering abuse is not having health insurance, especially with the prevalence of violence that exists today. It is incredible to me that abuse victims must endure so much – even worrying about receiving the proper care after surviving abuse – but their abusers get off scot-free in terms of their coverage? Why aren’t the partners who inflict the abuse denied coverage or given higher rates? Isn’t their abuse the reason for the added doctor visits and multiple trips to the ER? Why must women take the added blow? How is this just?

We need a health care system that does not discriminate against women, but one that defends and protects women when they need it most. Luckily, top House Democrats agree and pledged to incorporate a ban on the practice in the healthcare reform legislation moving its way through Congress. “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.”

I certainly hope so, but unfortunately domestic violence isn’t the only “pre-existing” condition that discriminates against women. Be sure to to check out Care 2′s “Being a Woman Is Not A Pre-Exisiting Condition” for more information on ridiculous circumstances that discriminate against women and RH Reality Check for a round up of other related blog posts.

What can you do to help?

I am not a “pre-existing” condition and neither are you! Have your voice heard today and show women that you’ve got their back.

Image created by the National Women's Law Center -

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Carmen Lawrence
Carmen Lawrence6 years ago

I don't even know where to begin. I think very many, if not MOST, women encounter abusive men at some time in their lives, if not physically abusive then emotionally abusive. We should start teaching young girls in school that they are strong, and important, and have something to say. The problem is that if they see passive mothers at home, they often copy this behaviour. I would say: every adult woman (or man) should make a point to talk to every child, male or female, at some point about their position in the family. Abused children who watch their mothers being abused usually repeat the situation by marrying ignorant, frustrated, angry men. Men must be taught as children to respect themselves and to respect women. I don't know where to begin, when a situation is as epidemic as this; but if each person says something, and each person responds to any suspicion of abuse of which he/she is aware, we can change the situation. In this case, looking away means condoning.

Carol H.
Past Member 6 years ago

Seeing how it is men who do the battering of course but not only that she has been hurt and now she is going to pay to get fixed that is just not right at all.
But don't forget it is men who make the rules of who is covered and who is not covered so they don't want to have to pay for damages that men create.

Jane Way
jay way6 years ago

health care should be free for everyone and thats it.

T.Ed. &.
T. Ed. W.6 years ago

One more reason why we need reform of the system, including no coverage-denial.

Sarah D.
Sarah D.6 years ago

"We women may just have to rise up together against this male-dominated women-hating society. That would include any women against womens' equality. They are traitors, and they are the enemy too."

Mazel tov! Amen!

Carole D.
Carole Dunn6 years ago

For starters, I don't know what people are talking about when they say that the taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill for an abused woman. We are talking about private insurance companies, not public programs.

Secondly, it's not easy to just up and leave. There are all sorts of circumstances to consider. If a woman has no money, where is she to go? We have more animal shelters than shelters for abused women and children, and some of the shelters have rules that keep many women out. There was a shelter in Syracuse, NY that wouldn't accept women with children. There was a shelter in San Francisco that wouldn't accept women who had a car. Did they think she should live in it?

Most importantly, many abusers threaten to kill the woman and sometimes the children if she leaves. Crime statistics show that 75% of women who are killed by their abusers are killed in the act of leaving or after they have left.

It's only been in recent years that laws have been passed in most states that abused women cannot be denied insurance. New York State only made it illegal about 10 years ago when they discovered that the 8 biggest insurers in the state would not insure women with a history of being battered. Even though doctors are required by law to report perceived abuse, many don't because they know by doing so the woman would never qualify for health insurance again.

Stop being so judgmental and get some compassion.

Deborah W.
.6 years ago

Some abusers do go after the other person. but usually they are cowards and leave the other person alone.

I would be the type who would go after the abuser like in the movie 'Burning Bed.' Probably, I would get stuck with a judge who insisted my self-defense' defense would not be allowed even if I was very obviously defending myself. If all that happened, and I were sent to prison just for defending myself against an abusing jerk, I would sue the judge for so much money, I would make sure he paid dearly for his bad judgment. We women may just have to rise up together against this male-dominated women-hating society. That would include any women against womens' equality. They are traitors, and they are the enemy too.

Deborah W.
.6 years ago

The CEOs and executives getting rich off of denying insurance to battered women, should, themselves be physically battered and assaulted by anyone in the public who wants to do so without the CEO or executive being allowed to press assault charges. It should be open season on these greedy monsters. If I could get away with it, I would have some bullets ready for just this greedy type. I hope and pray that they find out what a REAL bitch Karma is if they don't change their policy regarding denying battered women coverage. It is just their way of keeping women down, and they will not get away with it if I have the opportunity to do anything TO these mysogynic MONSTERS!

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

Past Member: Glenn Blackwell

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

Yes, insurance companies should cover battered women.
The rates should increase with each incident.
Smokers lung examination, reckless driving accidents and women that return to live with the abusive husband, fiance, boyfriend or girlfriend.