Health

Under AHCA Sex Assault Could Be Pre-Existing Condition

| by Michael Allen

The new Republican health care plan, the American Health Care Act, also known as Trumpcare, may allow sexual assault to become a pre-existing condition for health insurance coverage.

Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey added an amendment to the AHCA that allows states to apply for waivers that allow insurance companies to charge people higher premiums for pre-existing conditions, noted Health Affairs Blog.

Gina Scaramella, executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, writes in The Hill that before the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was passed in 2010, sexual assault survivors who got medical care could later be denied health insurance coverage because insurance companies considered the after-effects of rape to be a pre-existing condition.

HuffPost reported in 2011 on Christina Turner, a former health insurance underwriter, who thought she had been sexually assaulted after she met two men in a bar, allowed them to buy her drinks. She later woke up with injuries that correlated with rape.

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Turner's doctor prescribed an anti-HIV medicine as a precaution against catching the disease from her presumed assault.

Turner did not get AIDS, but lost her health insurance a few months later. When she tried to obtain new coverage, health insurance companies declined to cover her because of the anti-AIDS medication that she took. The corporations told Turner to try again in three or more years if she had proof that she did not have AIDS.

Other women told HuffPost similar stories of not being able to buy health insurance because they had a "pre-existing condition" as a result of a sexual assault, such as sexually transmitted diseases or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Therapists and patients told the news site that health insurance companies often denied coverage for long-term mental health care to female sex assault victims.

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Turner recalled going without health insurance for three years after being sexually assaulted: "I’m going to be penalized my whole life because of this."

Republican House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin insisted on his official website that the new GOP plan actually strengthens protections for those who have pre-existing conditions.

Ryan writes "no person may be priced based on health status if they have maintained continuous coverage," which is true, but if they "have a gap of at least 63 days in coverage in the preceding year" they can get hit with the high premiums for their pre-existing conditions, noted Health Affairs Blog.

In other words, Trumpcare creates the "continuous coverage" rule, and then allows insurance companies to penalize people if their insurance lapses.

Ryan also blamed Obamacare for reducing competition in the health insurance marketplace, and insisted that the GOP plan "will increase competition in the marketplace, giving Americans more choices when deciding upon their health care plans and ensuring that health care premiums will decrease."

However, there is no guarantee health care premiums will go down under the GOP plan as there are no  price controls. In pre-Obamacare years, competition in the marketplace did not bring premium prices down.

From 2000 to 2010, average family premiums for employer coverage grew 8 percent each year, The Charlotte Observer reported in January. But from 2010 to 2016, under Obamacare, that same average grew at only 5 percent per year.

Sources: The Hill, HuffiPost, Health Affairs Blog, Speaker Paul Ryan, The Charlotte Observer / Photo credit: Natts Sitticus/Flickr

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