iOS app Android app More

Adjusting Insurance Company Attitudes

What's Your Reaction?

Hard-hearted and soft-brained must be pre-existing conditions for some health insurance executives and state legislators. For battered women (and presumably children) in D.C., Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming, state laws allow insurance carriers to deny coverage to victims of abuse because (are you ready?)... domestic violence (DV) is a pre-existing condition! Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, people of conscience need to be educated about this abusive state of affairs.

Being alive with a body is also a pre-existing condition. But to determine that the harm which is inflicted by another is "pre-existing" is so cruel and inhumane that my mind is completely boggled. I suppose "boggled" might also be called a pre-existing mental condition a majority of Americans have when it comes to the entire concept of "pre-existing" anything, be it cancer, heart disease or hammer-toes. But DV? Come on!!!

According to an excellent piece, "The Insurance Industry's Heartless Logic: Getting Beaten by Your Husband Is an Excuse to Deny Coverage" by Ryan Grim, published in the September 15th Huffington Post, "In 1994, then-Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), now a member of Senate leadership..., found that eight (companies) would not write health, life or disability policies for women who have been abused. In 1995, the Boston Globe found that Nationwide, Allstate, State Farm, Aetna, Metropolitan Life, The Equitable Companies, First Colony Life, The Prudential and the Principal Financial Group had all either canceled or denied coverage to women who'd been beaten."

If any of you are stockholders of the companies listed in Grim's article, please find out if they are still enforcing their cruel rule for battered women and if so, lodge complaints. If you're really outraged, divest with them and encourage others to do the same. Perhaps impacting their bottom line may educate management. Apparently, human awareness, empathy and compassion don't appear to be pre-existing standards for everyone.

Tragically, even the so-called good guys who side with women can be utterly clueless about domestic violence, and often need specific education on the subject. As an example, I covered the Milken Global Conference in 2008 and attended a lecture by Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2006. Yunus won because of his widespread implementation of micro-loans for women. He shared movingly about a woman in Bangladesh who ran up to him during a visit to her village and threw herself at his feet, thanking him and crying. He stood her up and asked her to explain. She replied, "Oh, you have changed the lives of the women and girls here forever!" He asked if she was referring to a loan. "Yes," she answered through an interpreter, "But more than that, you gave us the gift of a toilet near the fields. Before that, the women were too embarrassed to relieve themselves outdoors, so we would hold it from sun-up to sundown. It was very hard to work and many of us would be sick."

Yunus said he was astounded: as a man, he'd never considered the toilet needs of women and how they might differ from men's needs. He then went on to describe a new approach he is promulgating in the communities where he'd already "spread" micro-loans: self-funded health care insurance for the lendees.

I raised my hand and asked from the front row, "Does the health insurance cover injuries from domestic violence, or only illness?" Muhammad Yunus, famous for his empowerment of women, looked at me directly and said, "There is no domestic violence in Bangladesh."

I saw his staff of women suppress eye-rolling. I tried to not sputter when I said, "Really? Are you sure?" He said, "Yes."

Here's a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who obviously has his heart and mind in the right place, and yet he is blind to domestic violence as a huge health problem for women. He admitted his blindness to women's bathroom needs, so perhaps this could be a "teachable moment" for him. By the way, Bangladesh has a huge DV problem; soon after, I contacted his office and made connections with his staff to use the Milken "incident" as a way to educate Dr. Yunus.

Education is of prime importance all over the world, not just in the Bangladesh countryside. If you look at the states where coverage is denied to women who have experienced battering, you'll notice they are all rural with the exception of D.C. I suspect there's also "rural" or backward attitudes at play in the state legislatures that allow DV as a "pre-existing" condition. Underneath a lot of the callousness toward woman beating is an old-fashioned and often religiously based attitude that to "spare the rod is to spoil the child." In many so-called "traditional" or fundamentalist religions, women and children are regarded as chattel or beasts of burden; the superiority of men, and their RIGHT to beat their human possessions goes unquestioned. Yunus was blind to rural women's working conditions, so it's not completely surprising he'd be blind to their domestic conditions either. Similarly, I'm hoping there are legislators and insurance company executives who are willing to have their attitudes... adjusted.

No one ever deserves a beating. No one should ever have any illness or injury -- no matter what the cause -- considered to be "pre-existing" so as to deny them help.

Follow Ellen Snortland on Twitter: www.twitter.com/snortland