WASHINGTON (CNN) — Top House Democrats on Tuesday slammed insurers who claim that domestic violence is a pre-existing condition that can be used to deny coverage to battered women.
They pledged to incorporate a ban on the practice in the health care reform legislation currently winding its way through Congress.
Forty-two states have already passed such a prohibition, according to a recent report from the National Women’s Law Center. Idaho, Mississippi, North
Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming and the District of Columbia have not, however.
“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.”
A spokesman for an association representing health insurance companies backed the proposed change.
“No one should be denied coverage because they are a victim of domestic abuse,” said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans.
We “strongly support (a variation of) legislation that prohibits discrimination against victims of abuse and we are urging all states to promptly adopt it.”
Some reform advocates say the proposed federal action, while a positive step, does not go far enough.
“We have to go further and take affirmative steps to reach out to battered women who may have been denied coverage to let them know the landscape has changed and there may be insurance options available to them,” said Shelley Senterfitt, a representative of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“We need to fix the damage that’s been done,” she said.
–CNN’s Mary Snow and Shirley Zilberstein contributed to this report