Are rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence really preexisting conditions under AHCA?

As news spread that the House passed the GOP legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act, Democrats’ frustration was palpable. Bernie Sanders tweeted “Donald Trump and Republicans just celebrated voting to let thousands of Americans die so that billionaires get tax breaks. Think about that.” Hillary Clinton tweeted “A shameful failure of policy & morality by GOP today. Fight back on behalf of the millions of families that will be hurt by their actions”. The section of the GOP legislation that is causing the most controversy is the provision that could potentially allow health insurance companies to charge people with preexisting conditions more money. Some have cited that rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence would be among conditions that could cause higher premiums.

 

This is, of course, a slight stretching of fact. The bill would allow states to apply for waivers to allow insurance companies to charge people based on their medical history. Individuals with preexisting conditions will not be denied coverage, but they could have to pay more for a short period. According to The Washington Post Fact Checker Michelle Ye Hee Lee : “These changes would affect a specific group of people who meet the following criteria: Lives in a state that seeks this waiver; has a lapse in health coverage for longer than 63 days; has a preexisting condition; and purchases insurance on the individual or small-group market.

 

A person who fell into this category would face insurance rates that could be based on their individual condition, for one year. (States that seek a waiver would need to provide ways to help make up the difference in costs.) After that, people would qualify for prices at the community rate, rather than based on their individual conditions. This would not affect people with employer-funded health coverage; the individual market, including the Obamacare exchanges, currently serves about 18 million Americans.”

 

Even if the legislation passed, and even if states chose to take those waivers, sexual assault and domestic violence are unlikely to be reasons why an individual’s insurance policy premium is raised. Most states have laws which prohibit unfair discrimination by insurance professionals on the basis of abuse based on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Unfair Discrimination Against Subjects of Abuse In Health Benefit Plans Model Act. The Act defines abuse as “Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing another person bodily injury, physical harm, severe emotional distress, psychological trauma, rape, sexual assault, or involuntary sexual intercourse” and engaging in acts that place a person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or physical harm. It is notable, however, that a victim would have to disclose their abuse in order to be protected from this discrimination.
Though this false information has been pushed around the media, there are other reasons we should be criticizing the new proposed healthcare legislation. The GOP bill does little to repeal Obamacare as promised, and offers more of an Obamacare-lite. As Senator Rand Paul stated: “I really frankly am not too excited about subsidizing the profit of insurance companies…There’s about $300 or $400 billion in this bill for insurance company profit.” With bipartisan disapproval of the legislation, it is unlikely to make it through the Senate or will face major rewrites before it does. It’s important while the fate of the bill is still being decided, that we not get stirred up on inaccuracies aimed at furthering the divide between liberals and conservatives.

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