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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Domestic Abuse and Health Insurance: Almost a Retraction

Three weeks ago, I reported a story making the rounds that South Dakota is one of nine states that allows health insurance companies to reject applications from victims of domestic abuse. "South Dakota women," I warned, "if your husband beats you, he may render you uninsurable."

Pat Powers, a former Pierre functionary in the state Division of Insurance, took expection to this contention, saying that even if there is no statute explicitly forbidding insurance companies from making such a heinous exclusion, he had never seen a single instance of an insurance company being that big of a jerk in South Dakota.

ThePostSD.com's Any Dunkle gets the same encouraging story from Division of Insurance assistant director Randy Moses:

True, Moses said, there is no law in South Dakota that expressly prohibits a company from denying coverage to abused women in the individual market. (State and federal government do not allow such a policy in the group coverage market.)

However, the reality is, any insurance company doing business in South Dakota must first gain state approval for any policy, including the actual language in its policies.

“No insurance company is going to ask (to make abuse a pre-existing condition), nor have I ever seen one that asks about it,” said Moses. “And, South Dakota is not going to approve such a policy exclusion” [Amy Dunkle, "The Huffington Post Misinterprets SD Insurance Regulations," ThePostSD.com, 2009.09.29]

Thank goodness such evil is not being done in our name. However, I'm not quite ready to say the original story was wrong. Pandagon and the SEIU are technically correct in their interpretation of existing South Dakota policy: there is none prohibiting an insurance company from seeking to exclude women who are victims of domestic abuse. Such women are protected by the good intentions of the good people we have working in Pierre, but not by a specific law.



  1. Good Lord! There's also no law on the books to prohibit me from pickling you in brine.

    Only my good intentions can save you until the law steps in!

    That, and the difficulty of finding a Ball jar large enough.

    Seriously -- we cannot pass laws to cover all conceivable cases. If you think we should, could you please provide me with a complete list of laws that do not exist that should?

  2. Actually, Michael, I think human pickling is covered under assault and personal injury, if not homicide. Interestingly, I can't find a cannibalism statute that would prohibit you from eating me once pickled. (All together now: Ew.)

    You could also face charges if you misbranded me or improperly market me as organic.


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