Some U.S. health insurers deny coverage to abuse victims, White House notes

November 3, 2009

USA/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.USA-HEALTHCARE/

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



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You’ve got to be kidding me?! Batterred women are victimized twice; once by their perpetrator and secondly by their insurance! And, while we’re on the topic of insurance, I’m still scratching my head to figure out why most insurers cover Viagra and not birth control. Must be women have the wrong genitalia…

Posted by Andrea T | Report as abusive

Boy, this is one of the reasons we need the Demarcates bill to be passed and not that do nothing half – bill that some of the repubes are saying they have to present in place of the Dem. They are still trying to throw a wrench into health care reform.They think as long as they blow smoke and stomp their feet they will get their way, well their way wont work any more.
They all need to get their scripts for their Viagra and use their government insurance to get it filled.
This is a waste of money where birth control pills would help cut down on the abortions that is a problem in the US. I’m not against abortions in case of incest,rape and a threat to the mothers life.
They need to use common sense when dealing with peoples lives.

Posted by janey | Report as abusive

This is horrible! Victims of abuse may not want to step forward to get help because then they won’t be able to get medical insurance. It’s just another thing that will scare victims into keeping their mouths shut. Very depressing.

Posted by Melinda | Report as abusive

This is horrible! But do we need 1700 pages of legislation? I remember when childbirth wasn’t covered until the government stepped in. They can do the same thing again and cover a lot of other problems like preexisting conditions. We do not need total government control. Let the insurance companies compete across state lines so more competition enters the field. Why do we need Blue Cross of Hawaii or California or any other state, just let it be Blue Cross and let it compete with all the other insurers and vice versa.
And a word on a US Government health care program, it works, it is paid for by taxes and it is called Medicare! Make all health insurance abide by the same rules and there goes 90% of the 1700 pages. What do you think?

Posted by Another Voice | Report as abusive

abuse victims are damaged-goods, so the Insurance Co.s don’t want to lose money, needles to say, the saved money should be better spent on fighting the war-effort for security for the Homeland!

Posted by Ken Macone(Sparks,NV-PD) | Report as abusive

While I believe that it should be wrong to deny health care coverage as a pre-existing condition to a battered spouse, taking over America’s existing healthcare programs to correct the problem is absolutely ludicrous.
Its kind of like amputating your leg because you got a splinter in your big toe.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

How does spending well over 1.2 Trillion dollars to increase the number of people covered for insurance by 2% help this situation? Everyone has access to health care. There is a distinct difference between access to health care and health insurance, and the obama crowd wants to confuse those terms.

Posted by Another Voice 2 | Report as abusive

Wait a minute….read the lines here. THere are NO laws stating what conditions can or cannot be used to deny insurance coverage AND insurance comes under the purview of the states, not the federal government. Politicians are puuling the wool over voters eyes as they vote on legislation designed to give the government control over every aspect of your life. Health care, light bulbs, salaries, property rights, etc, etc, etc. Those of us who work and pay taxes have become the worker class and will end up supporting the rest of the country and our numbers will dwindle as theirs rise until there is no one left to pay the piper. Mark my workds, this is NOT about health care. I will not support any politician who subscribes to this power and control type of government. I have become a Libertarian; read some Karl Marx and study the history of the Soviet Union, really study it; you may become one too. Anything the government gives away is something it took from someone else Be careful before you agree with something that sounds really good.

Posted by Andi | Report as abusive

Cover them the first “few times”, then cover their counselling, but there should be a point when being a victim does get old. How about this… leave the person who is beating you….blah,blah,blah…don’t understand the cycle of violence…blah, blah, blah… where else to go…blah, blah, blah…If I keep hitting myself in the head with a hammer, how many times should the insurance company have to pay up because I chose to hit myself in the head with a hammer….just so you know I feel the same about STD’s

Posted by Common Man | Report as abusive

Health insurance is not health care. Say NO to health insurance. We need health care facilities not more health insurance. Health insurance is not health care.

Posted by thomas | Report as abusive

Should we women be be surprised, as second-class citizens in America, that these eight states deny women the insurance coverage they have a human right to? Church policnies dictate candidate choices and it neighbor angainst neighbor constantly in most of the states listed where your religion is your personal calling card. People, especially women, live in fear for their safety and even their own gender try to take their rights awaythrough the pulpits of male-based organized religion, while women in these churches stand by acting helpless and submissive.

Our country doesn’t do a much better job of unholding women’s rights than third-word countries, so where is civilization heading-backwards? That’s where the men of these eight states would surely love to take everyone.

Religion should stay out of the way of a woman’s right to control her reproductive organs and stop putting women at the mercy of men, criminal or otherwise. We are NOT living in ancient times but rather science-based times of knowledge and understanding regarding individual rights, or so American Patriots like to claim.

As Chris Rock stated not long ago on the Jay Leno Show, ”
If we caught Osama Ben Laden, we would execute him, not rape him-that would be barbaric!” Think about that. Our prisoners have more rights than women in our society have and something is terribly wrong with that.

Keep your religious beliefs to yourself and out of the laws of the land, As a matter of fact, we women should be demanding that all states in this country have one health insurance mandate: to provide full healthcare and full health insurance to women equally, as the majority of states now uphold.

Posted by Tawni Caldwell | Report as abusive