Complications from sexual assault could be a pre-existing condition

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Shannon Schell of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence said the organization is "extremely concerned" about the new American Health Care Act. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Shannon Schell of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence said the organization is "extremely concerned" about the new American Health Care Act. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Victims of sexual assault could be forced to pay more for health insurance coverage under the House bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Concern over changes to Obamacare protections for people with pre-existing conditions prompted thousands to voice their concerns on Twitter after Thursday’s vote. Users worldwide sent tweets with the hashtag #IamaPreexistingCondition about 150,000 times on Friday.

One wrote, “Bipolar disorder, raped in college. Those are reasons I won’t get health coverage under Trumpcare.”

“We’re extremely concerned,” said Shannon Schell of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

Under the Republican plan, insurers cannot deny people outright because of pre-existing conditions, but states could get a waiver that allows insurers set prices based on a person's medical background.

“If they have ongoing mental health issues through their lifetime or have physical issues that may have resulted from the rape, they could be charged higher premiums. They could essentially be charged out of being able to afford coverage,” Schell said.

The American Health Care Act passed by the House Thursday does not specifically list “sexual assault” as a pre-existing condition. In fact the bill does not lay out any specific medical diagnoses or event as a pre-existing condition; those decisions would left to insurance companies and states, according to PolitiFact.

But Schell says sexual assault victims can develop a wide range of medical issues that insurers based prices on in the past – before the ACA prohibited insurers from considering pre-existing conditions in pricing formulas.

“Somebody could have PTSD, ongoing depression, anxiety. That could cause them to need treatment for many years. There are physical aspects -- say if somebody contracts HIV,” she said.

For victims of sexual assault, problems with health insurance could have dangerous consequences, she said.

“If their coverage is by their abusive partner, they may be reluctant to leave knowing that now it's going to be difficult for them to find a provider they can afford,” she said.

State law does have certain insurance protections for victims of domestic violence, but it’s unclear how far those protections would extend, Schell said. The Arizona law says insurers cannot charge a different rate “solely on the basis that the insured… has been a victim of domestic violence.”

The law does not mention victims of sexual assault.

Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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