Some U.S. health insurers deny coverage to abuse victims, White House notes
In eight U.S. states and the capital, Washington, D.C., being beaten by your spouse or domestic partner can be deemed a “pre-existing condition” that a company can legally use as a reason to deny health insurance coverage. Valerie Jarrett, a top adviser to President Barack Obama, raised the issue in a web chat making the White House’s case for healthcare reform on Monday.
“In some states if you have been a victim of domestic violence, you can be considered as having a pre-existing condition,” Jarrett said as she hosted the chat on the White House website and on the Facebook social networking site, taking questions on an array of issues, many having to do with healthcare issues faced by members of minority groups.
Some of the participants in the webcast responded by posting outraged notes after she said it.
“We need your engagement, we need your involvement,” Jarrett said, urging chat participants to get involved in the reform push. “… It is extremely important that we have this passed and on the president’s desk this year.”
The National Women’s Law Center said eight states — Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho — and the U.S. capital city allow insurers to deem being a domestic violence survivor a “pre-existing condition.” The center also notes that the list of such conditions, for which women can be denied coverage, in some states also includes pregnancy or having had medical treatment following a sexual assault.
The White House has been staging events targeting a variety of audiences to make its pitch for an overhaul of the massive U.S. healthcare system. On Thursday, for example, Obama addressed small business owners and officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce business group. Jarrett’s chat on Monday seemed to target a younger audience. And on Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills were to meet with small business owners in Washington in an event also to be streamed on the Internet.
Denial of coverage to people who are sick, or have been sick — i.e. those whom insurers deem to have pre-existing conditions — is one of many emotional issues in the healthcare debate and health insurance companies have been a favorite target for many advocates of reform.
A health insurance industry spokesman said the industry backs efforts to change the policy.
“No one should be denied coverage because they are a victim of domestic abuse. Health plans strongly support the National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s model legislation that prohibits discrimination against victims of abuse and we are urging all states to promptly adopt it,” said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for the America’s Health Insurance Plans industry group in Washington.
Photo credit: Valerie Jarrett, advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, watches as he speaks about the need for health insurance reform this year, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed, and People protest against healthcare reform as the House Democrats’ healthcare plan is unveiled on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 29, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts