Domestic abuse a medical condition?

October 14, 2009 9:00:00 PM PDT
North Carolina recently popped up on a list of states that allows health insurers to consider domestic violence a pre-existing condition - and therefore a legitimate reason to deny health benefits.The news was a surprise to NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin.

"My first reaction is one of shock," he told ABC11.

But Goodwin says laws already in place should prevent it from happening.

"I immediately asked my staff to look into this and we discovered that North Carolina should not be on the list of eight," he said.

Goodwin says the Women's Law Center - which distributed the list - used old information. But he says he can see why some believe the laws are a little fuzzy.

For group coverage, the law clearly prohibits discrimination against individuals with conditions arising out of domestic violence. But under non-group individual plans, it's not as clear. The law only states that pre-existing conditions are medical conditions.

Goodwin says domestic violence is not a medical condition and also points out unfair discrimination laws could be enforced should an insurer try to deny a victim coverage.

"As the state insurance regulator, the final word on this is this office, me, as Insurance Commissioner. This would never be allowed in North Carolina. But I will say that just to make sure that there is not even a question, we wanted to make sure that there is an additional layer of protection for victims of domestic violence."

To clear up any confusion, Goodwin is filing changes with the Legislature's Rule Review Committee spelling out someone's abuse status cannot be used against them. It even goes a step further - allowing victims who were insured under their abuser's coverage to still get coverage for at least 18-months if they divorce.

If approved, the change would go into effect in March, but Goodwin says domestic violence victims should feel safe now.

"North Carolina should never be on this list again," he said.

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