( – promoted by OKWatchdog)
A House committee yesterday unexpectedly approved a bill to prohibit insurance companies from denying policies and coverage to victims of domestic violence.
Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, who chairs the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee, had not planned to consider Senate Bill 1251, which passed the Senate unanimously last month. The bill wasn’t on the agenda, but Sullivan relented after taking heat from concerned Oklahomans and being ripped in a press release from Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, the bill’s House author.
“Once again, the leadership of the Republican Party in the Oklahoma House of Representatives has shown that it holds the interests of insurance companies above the well-being of Oklahoma citizens,” Rep. Brown said in his statement.
There was plenty more, but there’s no need to further hammer Rep. Sullivan as he, ultimately, did the right thing. Prior to hearing the bill, Rep. Sullivan claimed that he wasn’t siding against domestic violence victims but, instead, was concerned that the bill was a mandate.
Let’s call it for what it is: Yes, it’s a mandate. So are financial solvency requirements and the COBRA insurance portability law. I seriously doubt too many Oklahomans would favor eliminating them, however.
The bill must clear the House floor by April 22. If it passes intact, it goes straight to the governor.
The bill’s opponents have consistently argued that there is no record of insurance companies denying care because of domestic violence. Setting aside for a moment the fact that such discrimination can extend beyond health insurance into homeowners insurance, life insurance, etc., Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland currently prohibits insurers from inquiring on policy applications about domestic violence status.
However, should Commissioner Holland could change her mind, leave office, or have the Legislature or courts undercut her rulemaking authority, the prohibition likely would be jeopardized.
It’s worth noting, too, that a woman who has been denied a policy or care once insured because of domestic violence may have no idea that her past was the cause. It’s likely that women who have been denied care don’t know why. And it’s almost certain that at some point not too long ago, domestic violence was allowed to be considered for insurance underwriting.
Awareness of the importance of domestic violence prevention is relatively recent. There is no reason to believe that Commissioner Holland’s predecessors were all as enlightened as she about domestic violence.
Pre-existing conditions are eliminated under the recently approved health care reform bill, but this provision doesn’t take effect until 2014, and many of its provisions will be up to state legislators and regulators to interpret and enforce. That’s one reason we need laws such as SB 1251 on the books now.