By Ian Harris, Staff Attorney
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or "Obamacare"). One piece of information that has been routinely absent from the news about Obamacare is the effect of the law on health options available for survivors of domestic violence. Below are some of the sections that have the potential to affect the lives of domestic violence survivors:
1) As of August 1, 2012, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will require that all insurance plans cover screening and counseling for domestic abuse. This provision is found under preventive services for women's health. The section of preventive services also expands the list of preventive services that must be covered without "cost sharing*". Requiring preventive services without cost sharing takes away the ability of insurers to continue discriminatory practices against women that often made women pay substantially more for preventive services such as "Well-woman visits, Gestational diabetes screening, HPV DNA testing, Sexually transmitted infection counseling, HIV screening and counseling, FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling, Breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling, and Domestic violence screening and counseling." This means that consumers pay less for these services because insurance companies must pay for these services at a higher rate.
2) In addition to the money saving options mentioned above, the new law also put a ban on pre-existing condition exclusions**. Previously, eight states and the District of Columbia allowed insurance companies to reject a woman's application for insurance because she had prior experience as a victim of domestic violence. The ban on pre-existing conditions exclusions makes it so that insurance companies can no longer continue this unfair and discriminatory practice.
The new healthcare law, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, has given the anti-violence community additional tools to help survivors of abuse. It's a small step, but every step counts.
Cost Sharing - when the patient/insured is required to pay some portion of covered expenses. Source: Reference.MD
Pre-exisiting conditions exclusions - a type of rule in insurance policies where the insurer can deny covering someone's health insurance claim because they had a condition or illness that make them more likely to be sick and thus be more likely to use their health insurance.