Insurance Company Tells Rape Victim Her Assault Would be a Pre-Existing Condition

This post comes from Jodi Jacobson's blog at RH Reality Check.

There is a serious and deep disconnect on health reform between reality and the debates ongoing in Washington. For one thing, despite continued support by the actual people of the United States for a public option in health reform, some Senators, namely Max Baucus (D-Montana) just want "a bill that can pass." Sounds to me like that's a strong endorsement of giving us the lowest common denominator health bill on one of the most important issues of our time.

Yet another deep, deep disconnect is on the issue of women--the people, their lives, their reproductive needs--being considered either irrelevant a la Senator "Who-Needs-Maternity-Care" Kyl of Arizona (home of the Sheriff who wanted female inmates to pay extra transportation costs to procure abortions) or in the form of Senator "You-Can't-Pay-For-Your-Abortion-With-Your-Private-Insurance-Policy" Hatch (R-Utah), or the insurance companies and the Catholic Bishops for whom women's health is a pre-existing condition or a condition of original sin.

Out of all of this is an increasing string of stories of individual women who've been denied insurance because their wombs, breasts, rapes (pick one) or simply their sex makes them a "pre-existing condition."

Among the most recent examples is a woman who spoke at the launch of NWLC's "Being A Woman Is Not A Pre-Existing Condition" campaign on October 20th, 2009.

Writing at, Amanda Stone recounts the tale of the speaker, Chris Turner:

"Nope, we won’t take her." This is what insurance companies in Florida said when asked whether they would provide insurance coverage to a hypothetical applicant who had survived rape. Let’s back up a few steps. First, who was asking the question? Second, why was the applicant's history posed as a hypothetical? Third, what can we do to change this dire situation?

Turner is a health insurance agent from Tampa Florida, and a rape survivor who spoke of her survival story. She was the person, in Stone's frame, who was asking the question.

As recounted by Stone:

In November 2002, [Chris Turner] was drugged and raped while on a business trip. She sought medical help from her physician, who put her on preventative anti-HIV medication, since there was no way of knowing whether the person who raped her used a condom. Following her assault, Chris was afraid to leave her house for some time. About a month after the assault, Chris gathered the courage to seek counseling to deal with her fears-counseling which continued for about a year. She took the steps she needed to take care of herself, and the steps she now encourages other rape survivors to take as a volunteer at a Florida organization called SOAR-Speaking Out About Rape. As a volunteer, she warns rape survivors about a harm which she faced-she tells them, "if you lose your insurance, you might not be able to get it back." This is exactly what happened to Chris.

A few months following her rape, Chris needed to find new health insurance on the individual market.

This, writes Stone, "brings us to our second question-why did Chris pose her story to insurance underwriters as the story of a hypothetical applicant?"


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