Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sen. Enzi: Please explain why getting beat up by your spouse is a "pre-existing condition"

This Huffington Post article was also on AlterNet:

It turns out that in eight states, plus the District of Columbia, getting beaten up by your spouse is a pre-existing condition.

Under the cold logic of the insurance industry, it makes perfect sense: If you are in a marriage with someone who has beaten you in the past, you're more likely to get beaten again than the average person and are therefore more expensive to insure.

In human terms, it's a second punishment for a victim of domestic violence.

In 2006, Democrats tried to end the practice. An amendment introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), now a member of leadership, split the Health Education Labor & Pensions Committee 10-10. The tie meant that the measure failed.

All ten no votes were Republicans, including Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), a member of the "Gang of Six" on the Finance Committee who are hashing out a bipartisan bill. A spokesman for Enzi didn't immediately return a call from Huffington Post.

At the time, Enzi defended his vote by saying that such regulations could increase the price of insurance and make it out of reach for more people. "If you have no insurance, it doesn't matter what services are mandated by the state," he said, according to a CQ Today item from March 15th, 2006.

That’s disturbing. Wyoming isn’t the worst state for cases of domestic violence. You have to go to Alabama and Oklahoma and South Carolina (Joe Wilson’s and Gov. Sanford's and Jim DeMint’s state) for that. In fact, those eight states in which insurance companies are able to hang a label of "pre-existing condition" on domestic violence victims includes Oklahoma and South Carolina, as well as Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota and my own state of Wyoming.

But all states with isolated rural populations have a high incidence of domestic violence. Wyoming is no exception.

The National Census of Domestic Violence Services conducts an annual state-by-state survey. The 24-hour survey on Sept. 27, 2007, of 18 of 24 domestic violence programs in Wyoming, yielded these stats: 349 victims were served in one day; 93 needed shelter or transitional housing; 256 requested counseling, advocacy or children’s support groups. 94 percent of providers could offer counseling, but only 22 percent could offer childcare or transitional housing. There were 61 unmet requests. Meanwhile, there were 107 domestic hotline calls answered.

What about medical care? No stats were given. But a National Violence Against Women Survey in July 2000 found this: "More than one third of all rapes and physical assaults committed against women by intimates results in injury in which women receive some medical care."

If each of those requests for help came from a different person, that would add up to 127,385. That would add up to almost 25 percent of the entire population. But let’s face it: many domestic violence victims are repeat victims – and the abusers repeat offenders. If you just took one-third of that figure, you get 42,462. They are mainly women and children. If one-third of them require some sort of medical care, that 14,000-some that probably won’t qualify for medical insurance under "pre-existing condition." Some of them will be dead, of course, such as the young woman gunned down by her Army sniper husband two summers ago in Cheyenne. He then drove to the mountains and killed himself. Their children were left behind.

How can we tolerate a "system" that allows insurance companies to deny coverage to women who made bad choices? Many of them leave their battering spouses, along with the kids, and find employment in lower-paying jobs that don’t provide health insurance. If they are lucky enough to find jobs with insurance, they may get nothing due to the pre-existing condition of accidentally walking into their husband’s huge fist.

Sen. Enzi has some explaining to do.

Read entire AlterNet article at http://tinyurl.com/or5d9y

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