Pennsylvania´s Unfair Insurance Practices Statute
Pennsylvania's Unfair Insurance Practices Statute does not allow insurance companies to deny coverage or benefits to victims of domestic violence for life, health, disability, homeowners, or auto insurance. PCADV and the Women's Law Project of Philadelphia worked with the insurance industry and policy leaders for more than 12 years to make changes to this law.
Health, Life and Disability Insurance
Until 1996, insurers in Pennsylvania could deny health, life and disability insurance to domestic violence victims. Women who had been injured or who had received counseling as a result of abuse were deemed high risk, just like people with other "pre-existing conditions" like heart disease and diabetes. Sometimes women would stay in abusive relationships for fear of losing coverage for themselves and their children. Or women would not report abuse to doctors, even when injured, because they could be dropped or denied coverage in the future if the doctor's report to the insurance company mentioned "abuse."
Abuse has short and longer-term effects on the physical and mental health of victims and their children. However, it is doubly unfair to punish the person who received the abuse, and not the person who caused it. Keeping insurance from victims makes it harder for them to get free and remain free from the abuse.
Auto and Homeowners Insurance
Until 2006, domestic violence survivors could be denied auto or homeowners insurance because insurance companies feared having to pay money for replacement and repairs. Abusers often claim that they "own" the victim and damage a victim's property to show that they "own" that too. Or, they may sabotage a car to keep their victims from escaping, especially in rural areas far from public transportation or nearby neighbors. Blaming a victim for damage caused by their abuser does not prevent future damage, although it may keep a victim from making an insurance claim. It is hard to escape abusive relationships without a vehicle or a place to live.
Federal Health Care Reform
In 2014, federal laws take effect that will make it illegal in all states for insurers to discriminate in health care insurance because a person is or was a victim of domestic violence. Specifically, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform) prohibits coverage denials and exclusions for women with "pre-existing conditions" such as pregnancy; having had a C-section, breast or cervical cancer; or being a survivor of domestic or sexual violence.
The practice of health insurance providers discriminating against domestic violence victims will be illegal throughout the United States.
PCADV Works to Make Insurance Discrimination Illegal
- PCADV's member programs work in every county to provide domestic violence victims and families with emergency shelter, housing options and other services to help victims gain financial stability and independence.
- PCADV legal department attorneys provide technical assistance to advocates and attorneys helping domestic violence victims who face insurance discrimination legal issues.
- In 1996, PCADV and the Women's Law Project were successful in efforts to enact Act 24, amendments to Pennsylvania's Unfair Insurance Practices Statute, to address discrimination against victims of domestic violence in life, health, and disability insurance matters. In 2006, PCADV succeeded in further amending the Unfair Insurance Practices Statute through Act 78 to address discrimination against victims of domestic violence in property and casualty insurance (homeowners and auto). PCADV continues such critical public policy work.
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If you fear for your immediate safety, call 9-1-1 or your local police.
Contact the domestic violence program in your area for free and confidential help.
Other victim programs are available to help you and your family.
Any attorney helping a domestic violence victim may contact the PCADV legal department at 888-235-3425 for information on law and legal procedures. (This is not a helpline for victims.)
The information provided on this website is intended for informational purposes only. The information provided under this topic is not legal advice, does not create an attorney-client relationship, and is not a substitute for contacting an experienced attorney. Read our full legal disclaimer.
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