Domestic Violence a Pre-Existing Condition? Insurance Companies Say Yes, Deny Coverage

The idea of a “pre-existing condition” strikes fear into the hearts of health insurance seekers everywhere. A cancer diagnosis, clinical depression, bum knees – each of these conditions and many more lay undeniably outside an individual’s control, but each could prevent any one of us from obtaining an insurance policy and the care we so badly need.

Evidently, the phrase “pre-existing condition” is now also synonymous with “injury suffered at the hands of another.” You see, what many people don’t realize is that insurance companies in eight states and the District of Columbia¬† are legally allowed to deny coverage to a patient on the basis of a rarely discussed and widely suffered “pre-existing condition”: having been the victim of domestic violence.

Yes, you read correctly. If you live in D.C., Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota or Wyoming, have ever suffered abuse at the hands of a partner or family member and are seeking a health insurance policy, you could very well be up shit creek without a paddle.

On paper, DV victims are likely to incur more health care costs through the course of their lives because they are at risk for repeat attacks. In effect, a sliver of society that needs access to quality health care far more than the average joe is systematically denied that very care. Additionally, because they fear losing insurance coverage for themselves or, worse, their children, many victims of violence that are currently insured are reluctant to seek health care if they are attacked and equally reluctant to report their experience to law enforcement officers.

Ellen Snortland rails against the twisted logic that makes such a policy possible in her blog on Huffington Post, and I couldn’t agree more. What we have here is a policy that not only conveniently ignores a dangerous social epidemic, but actually exacerbates the problem which already affects 4.8 million women and 2.9 million men every year, according to the CDC.

Business may be business, but forgive me for thinking that the original idea behind health insurance was that people would have access to care when they were most vulnerable. Shame on you insurance companies, for such unconscionable policies, and shame on you, state legislatures, for making such an outrage possible. Domestic violence is not a pre-existing condition, it is a crime inflicted on one human being by another. Just as we would not deny health insurance to someone who had been shot or someone who had been hit by a drunk driver, we should support, not reject, battered men, women and children. End of story.

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