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Thursday, February 11, 2010

HB 1189: State House Agrees Domestic Abuse Not a Pre-Existing Condition

House Bill 1189 continues its easy trip through the South Dakota Legislature. The bill, which rectifies a gap in South Dakota law that allows health and life insurers to deny women coverage if they are victims of domestic abuse, passed the House Tuesday 68–1.

One nay? Who's the cheese standing alone on this one? Rep. Charlie Hoffman, Republican rancher from Eureka.

I asked Rep. Hoffman what motivated his outlier vote, the only nay so far on a bill enjoying easy and wide bipartisan support. He replies (and quite promptly—thank you, sir!) with what appear to be two concerns.

First, Hoffman notes that the bill covers victims of "domestic violence," not "domestic abuse." Had the amendment specified "abuse" instead of violence, Hoffman says he'd have voted for HB 1189.

I'm not sure state law justifies this specific concern. Statute uses both domestic abuse and domestic violence seemingly interchangeably. But maybe there's a legal definition or precedent on these terms that I've missed.

Rep. Hoffman's other concern?

Now maybe I am the only person who thinks that a family with a history of having a male figure involved with domestic abuse may pose a problem for a new million dollar life insurance policy on the female in the home could spell trouble, but the bill does not spell that out [Rep. Charles Hoffman, personal e-mail, 2010.02.10].

If I understand this correctly, Rep. Hoffman is worried that this bill may make it easier for a domestic abuser to take out a life insurance policy on his or her cohabitating victim and then hasten the opportunity to cash in. If that concern is legitimate, Rep. Hoffman had better start shouting: he's the only person in the Legislature to see it yet.

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