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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Domestic Abuse = Pre-Existing Condition in South Dakota

A Kevin Bacon hat tip to my wife, who read this on Pandagon, who got this from the SEIU:

Loyal readers, you know I love South Dakota. That's why I live here. That's why my daughter will grow up here. But some news makes me want to take my state by the scruff of the neck and say "South Dakota! What on earth is wrong with you?!"

To wit: South Dakota is one of nine states that allows health insurance companies to reject applications from victims of domestic abuse. South Dakota women, if your husband beats you, he may render you uninsurable.

I can't sort out all the levels on which South Dakota's policy here is disgusting. Domestic abuse is all about power, usually some desperate, inadequate, pathetic man using fists and fear to force a woman into submission. Wifebeaters cut their victims off from avenues of social and financial support. Taking away a woman's ability to buy her own health insurance can cripple her financially and reinforce her dependence on her abuser. By making it possible for some brute to take away a woman's insurability with one drunken wallop, we, the state of South Dakota, become accomplices in domestic abuse.

Somewhere, some insurance company employee (any bets on whether it was a man?) had to reason out the following: "Gee, women whose husbands beat them might incur more medical costs. Women whose husbands beat them might reduce our profits. Therefore, we should not do business with women whose husbands beat them."

Our private health insurance system not only allows but embraces such appalling thinking. The state of South Dakota facilitates such evil, favoring profits over people. South Dakota considers wife-beating, like pregnancy, a pre-existing condition. I keep hearing we're a pro-life state, but our leaders keep providing evidence to the contrary.

We may not be able to legislate or educate every man into showing every woman the proper love and respect the Bible demands. But we can act to change an immoral system that perpetuates the powerlessness abusers inflict on their victims. Mitch, Gerry, Russfix this.

Domestic abuse is not a pre-existing condition. It is a crime for which the abuser, not the abused, should be punished. No man should be allowed to take away a woman's right, if not to receive health care, then to participate in the free market and buy with her own money the health insurance that is necessary to get care.


  1. That's textbook liberalism. Instead of providing incentives to get out of a bad situation, you want to make it easier for her to keep getting patched up and coming home to let some dirtbag beat the crap out of her over and over. True liberal "compassion."

  2. Bob, you ignorant slut. You are so blinded by your need to constantly reinforce your failing worldview that you can't see the real problem. I'm referring to the fact that once the woman is out of the situation, she still can be denied health insurance.

  3. Cory, you pompous donkey. To say that she can be "denied health insurance" is to assume that it is hers by right to begin with. Insurance is about sharing the risk willingly (both from the insured and the insurer's end of things). Sad as it may be, a person (female or male) who was the subject of domestic abuse may not be a risk that an insurer is willing to underwrite--much like an insurer will often turn down (or charge substantially larger premiums to) people who skydive.

    We can argue about the fact that the domestically abused didn't choose to have that happen to them and the skydiver did. True. But from the insurance company's perspective, risk (regardless of genesis) is risk.

    This is another example of an innocent person being damaged by the wickedness (yes, one of those words) of someone else.

  4. Michael:

    Agreed, your position is exactly why insurance companies can never provide reasonable medical care and why we need to move to a universal health care system.

  5. Cory -

    From about 1994-1999 I was the person who handled the life and health insurance complaints recieved by the SD Division of Insurance.

    In all my recollections, I recieved and fought some pretty goofy things. But I can assure you, I never once ran across a situation where someone was being denied coverage because they had been a victim of domestic assault.

    I would agree that such a possibility shakes the conscience, were it to occur. However, as I said, I've never heard of it happening.

    Aside from your blog linking to a blog which linked to a website which has a report claiming that such a practice is allowable, can you point an example or two to whom it has happened in SD?

    Going back to the source material, what it says is that ..."it is still legal in nine states and D.C. for insurers to reject applicants who are survivors of domestic violence." I take this to mean that there is no law that specifically outlaws the practice, with no further research into the topic.

    And they're correct. There is no law outlawing the practice. HOWEVER, the language used in insurance policies (what is covered and what is not) has be vetted through the SD Division of Insurance, and much of the bad stuff is weeded out without the need for laws.

    (If anything, the media has come down in the past on the SD DOI being too agressive, as opposed to being too lax.)

    The question you might want to ask of the division of insurance before everyone's knee jerks on this is "Are there any insurance policies approved for use in South Dakota which exclude domestic abuse vicitims from coverage?"

    And/or "Are you aware of any companies doing business in SD which are allowed to disqualify domestic abuse victims from coverage as part of the underwriting process."

    Unless you can point to some examples, the absence of a law does not mean that such things are allowed to occur in our fair state.

  6. Pat, I hope the SD Division of Insurance continues to take the initiative to prevent insurers from committing such heinous acts. If we really can prevent such greed and evil without a specific statute, great.

    But as Tony says, the fact that some insurers would consider treating domestic abuse as a pre-existing condition demonstrates an inherent flaw in running health insurance on a private profit model.

  7. The point is the inadequacy of laws a and regulations in South Dakota. The same absence of regulation that permitted South Dakota to become the usury center of the world applies to insurance.

    As I know about much case work regarding insurance problems that I cannot comment on because of confidentiality rules, I can cite a case where a health clinic has taken a person to court to collect a huge fee for services. They say they billed an insurance company to which the person paid very hefty premiums but never received any payments. The insurance company claims it never received any billings. The person is caught between the clinic and the insurance company. The state insurance office says it has no jurisdiction because the insurance company is not registered in South Dakota.

    The same situation applies to matters of domestic abuse. The state has no jurisdiction over many companies, but also no laws that apply to those companies over which it does have some authority.

    The case I refer to has one possible recourse: to file charges of consumer fraud that triggers a different set of laws. That is imperfect because it puts more onus on the clinic on the state level to prove that it submitted billings, and the insurance company would have to answer to laws involving interstate commerce.

    The patient either has to have the money to seek recovery through a suit or just be left in limbo and pay the bill, for which patient does not have the resources.


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