Rape Victim’s Choice: Risk AIDS or health insurance?

Christina Turner feared that she might have been sexually assaulted after two men slipped her a knockout drug. She thought she was taking proper precautions when her doctor prescribed a month’s worth of anti-AIDS medicine. Only later did she learn that she had made herself all but uninsurable. Turner had let the men buy her drinks at a bar in Fort Lauderdale. The next thing she knew, she said, she was lying on a roadside with cuts and bruises that indicated she had been raped. She never developed an HIV infection. But months later, when she lost her health insurance and sought new coverage, she ran into a problem. Turner, 45, who used to be a health insurance underwriter herself, said the insurance companies examined her health records. Even after she explained the assault, the insurers would not sell her a policy because the HIV medication raised too many health questions. They told her they might reconsider in three or more years if she could prove that she was still AIDS-free.

This article upsets me for several reasons:

(1)  Despite all these real life experiences that these women shared with HPIF, Susan Pisano, spokeswoman for the health insurance industry’s largest trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, insists insurers do not discriminate against victims of sexual assault and formulates some form of excuse for each and every woman’s story that was mentioned in the article.

(2) My experiences as a volunteer rape crisis counselor in the ER has shown me how traumatized, lost, and scared most rape victims feel after having all control being stripped from them in a moment’s instance. Now in addition, to helping them deal with emotions they never thought they had, and bringing to light the possibility of being impregnated or getting an STI or HIV from this experience, I have to look at them in the eyes and choose whether or not to exclude the fact that they may lose their health insurance, as well?

(3) On a more personal level, one of the sexual assault victims shares the same insurance company that I am currently being covered by. So, even though I may not have any “pre-existing” conditions (unless you want to count being overweight as one, as some insurance companies have) now, just the thought that being raped and then developing PTSD could stop me from potentially being insured is mind-boggling.

Quick Summary: This article includes testimonies from multiple women who contacted the Huffington Post Investigative Fund (HPIF) to say they were deemed ineligible for health insurance because they had a pre-existing condition as a result of a rape, such as post traumatic stress disorder or a sexually transmitted disease. Other patients and therapists wrote in with allegations that insurers are routinely denying long-term mental health care to women who have been sexually assaulted. All the while Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for the health insurance industry’s largest trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, said it was not fair to draw a larger pattern from such anecdotal evidence. “These situations are evaluated on a person-by-person basis,” she said. “There is nothing routine about this.”

Christina Turner’s Story:

Christina Turner feared that she might have been sexually assaulted after two men slipped her a knockout drug. She thought she was taking proper precautions when her doctor prescribed a month’s worth of anti-AIDS medicine. Only later did she learn that she had made herself all but uninsurable. Turner had let the men buy her drinks at a bar in Fort Lauderdale. The next thing she knew, she said, she was lying on a roadside with cuts and bruises that indicated she had been raped. She never developed an HIV infection. But months later, when she lost her health insurance and sought new coverage, she ran into a problem. Turner, 45, who used to be a health insurance underwriter herself, said the insurance companies examined her health records. Even after she explained the assault, the insurers would not sell her a policy because the HIV medication raised too many health questions. They told her they might reconsider in three or more years if she could prove that she was still AIDS-free.

Susan Pisano’s Response: “These issues you are bringing up, they deserve to be brought up,” said Pisano. “People who have experienced rape and sexual assault are victims and we want them to be in a system where everyone is covered.”

A 38 year-old woman from Ithaca, N.Y.’s Story:

A 38-year-old woman in Ithaca, N.Y., said she was raped last year and then penalized by insurers because in giving her medical history she mentioned an assault she suffered in college 17 years earlier. The woman, Kimberly Fallon, told a nurse about the previous attack and months later, her doctor’s office sent her a bill for treatment. She said she was informed by a nurse and, later, the hospital’s billing department that her health insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, not only had declined payment for the rape exam, but also would not pay for therapy or medication for trauma because she “had been raped before.” Fallon says she now has trouble getting coverage for gynecological exams. To avoid the hassle of fighting with her insurance company, she goes to Planned Parenthood instead and pays out of pocket.

Susan Pisano Response: Pisano, of the insurance association, said it was not fair to draw a larger pattern from such anecdotal evidence. “These situations are evaluated on a person-by-person basis,” she said. “There is nothing routine about this.”

A New Mexico Woman’s Story:

A New Mexico woman told the Investigative Fund she was denied coverage at several health insurance companies because she had suffered from PTSD after being attacked and raped in 2003. She did not want to disclose her name because she feared that she would lose her group health insurance if she went on the record as a rape victim. “I remember just feeling infuriated,” she said.

Susan Pisano’s Response: “I think it’s important to point out that health plans are not denying coverage based on the fact that someone was raped,” said Pisano of the insurance trade group. “But PTSD could be a factor in denied coverage.”

As Sandra Park, staff attorney at the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union stated insurance discrimination against rape victims will only further discourage them from coming forward to law enforcement and seeking medical help,” which I find to be heart breakingly sad.

Follow this link to read the full article: Rape Victim’s Choice: Risk AIDS or health insurance?

Advertisements

One thought on “Rape Victim’s Choice: Risk AIDS or health insurance?

  1. this is terrible. one more institutional reason to not report rape.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s