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?
- Become part of the “I Am Not A Pre-Existing Condition” campaign and sign / tweet their petition!
- Sign the Service Employees International Union’s petition telling Congress to stop their discriminatory practices against women!
- Have a twitter or facebook account? Change your profile picture to the image created by the National Women’s Law Center to support change!
- Write Congress and remind then that women need health reform that meets their needs too!
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 - http://nwlc.blogs.com/.a/6a00d83451d29769e20120a63c3dc8970c-pi