Domestic abuse as a pre-existing condition?

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Imagine being denied insurance coverage because you were a victim of domestic abuse. Mississippi is one of eight states with no laws to stop companies from using it as a reason to deny coverage.

"Victims of domestic violence feel like they're getting hit twice, whenever the actual crime happens and again when they're denied by their insurance company," Representative Brandon Jones said.

Jones said it's a scenario that shouldn't play out in Mississippi. But, according to the National Women's Law Center, Mississippi, Idaho, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming have no laws preventing insurance companies from using domestic violence as a reason to deny coverage.

"We didn't know about it. Now, we know about it," Sandra Morrison said. "The only way to make a change is through the legislative process."

Morrison is Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Non-Violence. She and state Representative Brandon Jones are pushing for legislation to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against domestic abuse victims.

"The benefit of a bill like this is that there will be no second guessing. You would know right from the start that you could not deny coverage or not write a policy on the basis of this," Jones said.

According to State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, in 2001, former House Insurance Committee Chair Mary Ann Stevens sponsored four bills prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against victims. All those bills died in committee.

Chaney said his department has never had any complaints about companies denying coverage. However, Chaney said he thought such legislation "would be beneficial."

"If insurance companies are not engaging in this practice, there should be no resistance to this bill," Rep. Jones said.

Under the state's Unfair Trade Practices Act, Commissioner Chaney said he could step in should an insurance company deny coverage.  Representative Jones acknowledges this, but said legislation would alleviate any open legal questions or dealing with the issue on a case by case basis.

Jones, who's also Vice Chairman of the House Insurance Committee, plans to have the bill ready for session in January.

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