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INSURANCE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

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If Utah is to keep avoiding problems that have arisen elsewhere, the Legislature should make it illegal for insurance companies to deny claims for treatment of injuries to a victim of domestic violence.

A bill introduced in the Utah House of Representatives targets insurance companies that discriminate against victims of domestic violence. Other states have reported cases in which companies denied coverage, arguing that the victim could have prevented the injuries but did not.Such insensitive treatment of clients by a few firms can give the entire insurance industry the undeserved reputation of being arbitrary, impersonal and uncaring.

Utah has had no major problems with such ridiculous actions - yet. The Legislature can make sure that remains the case.

As Utahns begin to recognize the widespread seriousness of domestic violence and the complex forces behind it, including why battered spouses or partners continue to live with the abuser, it becomes increasingly clear that it is not a case of simply leaving a bad environment. Many abused wives are financially and emotionally unable to break away. Even when they do leave, the batterer sometimes follows them.

In a Pennsylvania case, a major insurer compared a victim of domestic violence to a diabetic who refuses to take insulin. The firm consented to provide benefits to the woman only if she moved out of her home.

Such a simplistic view shows a dangerous lack of knowledge or, worse, an intent to unfairly put the client in a catch-22 position. If a victim is insured under the spouse's policy, ending the relationship would also be grounds to deny benefits.

The measure before the Legislature ought to be passed as simply a preventive one.