State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney has clarified a statement he made to the Jackson Free Press used in a story Wednesday regarding Mississippi being one of the eight remaining states whose laws allow insurance companies to use a history of domestic abuse as a reason to deny health-care coverage.
Chaney said all insurance companies in the state could potentially take advantage of the state's limited coverage mandate, and that he would prefer the state to change its law to push insurance companies to cover victims of domestic abuse.
"The whole situation is bad," Chaney said Wednesday. "Let's say a woman works with a company that had Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and she gets beat up in her house and Blue Cross says 'we're not covering you because getting beat up is your pre-existing condition.' That's terrible."
Chaney contacted the JFP later to say that he used Blue Cross Blue Shield as an example in his statement with no intention of implying that Blue Cross Blue Shield has ever been accused of denying coverage upon the basis of domestic abuse as a pre-existing health condition.
John Sewell, director of Corporate Communications for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, said his company has never denied coverage on the basis of a history of domestic abuse.
"The whole bit about domestic abuse and pre-empts, that's just completely false," Sewell told the JFP, adding that the company has even removed all pre-exclusions from its group plans ranging in size from 1 to 50.
The Legislature had briefly attempted to mandate such behavior on group plans this year. Senate Bill 2861, submitted by Hollandale Republican Sen. Eugene Clarke, would have prohibited exclusions for preexisting conditions in all small employer group health insurance policies, though Clarke himself let the bill die in committee.
"I'm a free-market guy," Clarke said. "The more mandates we pile on top of health insurance companies, (the more they) will drive the price of insurance up."
Clarke said that he is not sure if he would consider submitting a legislation that would prevent insurance companies from excluding coverage based upon domestic abuse as a pre-existing condition. He said he needed to familiarize himself with the debate before offering a statement to the press.
Chaney addressed the possible reason for the absence of such a law: "The reason there is not such a law is that there has not been a problem with insurance companies denying coverage or refusing to pay the claims of domestic violence victims in this state. If it were an issue, the Legislature and the (insurance) department would have addressed it by now."
Chaney said the Mississippi Department of Insurance is unaware of any insurance company that has denied coverage to an applicant on the basis of being a victim of domestic violence, and has received no complaint from a consumer stating their provider refused to pay medical bills incurred from domestic violence. The commissioner further stated that the denial of such a payment could prove a violation of the Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Still, Chaney said the Mississippi Insurance Department "would be very supportive" of the passage of the new law, should the Mississippi Legislature choose to enact legislation addressing this issue.