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Healthcare Reform to Increase Domestic Violence Screenings

PHOTO: Doctor with stethoscope.
PHOTO: Doctor with stethoscope.
August 2, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Screening for domestic violence is one of the eight preventive-care tests patients can get at no cost under the part of health-care reform that came into effect this week.

Advocates say that will improve women's health and save everyone money. When doctors ask the right questions and get their patients to seek help when they need it, says Laurie Thompsen, health and mental health coordinator with the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the amount of domestic violence goes down, and women and teenagers stay healthier.

"So many people visit health-care providers on a regular basis, it creates a perfect opportunity. It's also sending the message this is something that is not an acceptable way to be treated."

Critics of the health-care law say it will be too expensive, but Thompsen says treating domestic violence early and aggressively can save money. Intimate- partner violence costs the U.S. billions each year in lost workdays and expenses related to mental-health and substance abuse, she says, adding that the physical impact goes beyond the immediate injuries.

"Research has shown that there are also connections with other health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, depression, a whole variety of medical concerns."

Another change in the health-care law is that women's domestic-violence insurance claims can't be denied as part of a pre-existing condition.

"Health insurance companies can no longer designate interpersonal and domestic violence as a pre-existing condition, which some companies have done in the past."

In a push to improve preventive medical care, the health-care reform says insurance companies can no longer charge for many basic screenings, including the domestic violence screening.

The national domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV