This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) is raising its voice to the important role health care professionals play in combatting the devastating health effects of domestic violence. Women and adolescents who are abused are more likely to suffer from headaches, chronic pain, and sleep issues, and violence can lead to long-term health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and cancer. Violence also increases a woman’s risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
Health care professionals are in a unique and trusted position to connect with women experiencing violence. The Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover screenings and brief counseling for domestic violence without a copayment. Evidence shows that screenings and appropriate interventions by health care professionals can improve the health of women who have been abused and their families. Domestic violence can no longer be considered a pre-existing condition by health insurers.
Survivors of domestic violence or spousal abandonment and their dependents may qualify for a permanent special enrollment period to enroll in health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period. This special enrollment period allows survivors to enroll separately from their abuser/abandoner, which may help them regain control of their medical lives. Survivors and their dependents can get the medical and psychological care they need but may not have been able to get.
For more information on screenings and counseling, please review the OWH Health Care Providers’ Role in Screening and Counseling for Interpersonal and Domestic Violence fact sheet.