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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Don’t Let the Need for Health Insurance Stop You from Leaving

By Susan Johnson


June 09, 2016
Thursday PM

Domestic violence is found across all socioeconomic groups - in fact, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. However, women are often economically dependent on their abusers and are less able to leave and more likely to return to abusive partners. Many women are dependent on their spouses for insurance coverage.

Domestic abuse is something we don’t like to talk about. The Department of Justice (DOJ) defines domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

For most of us, it’s hard to fathom intentionally harming those we love. We see domestic violence on TV programs—or turn to another channel to avoid it. We see domestic violence victims on the news. We like to think it couldn’t happen to anyone we know, but it does.

We can’t just bury our heads in the sand and pretend that domestic abuse doesn’t exist. Awareness and education are integral to ending this cycle. Victims need appropriate community services. HHS and DOJ work extensively to eliminate domestic violence, as do state agencies, and non-profit organizations. Getting Help with Domestic Violence from the HHS Family & Youth Services Bureau’s website contains a collection of resources available to domestic abuse victims.

This issue has been addressed by a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for victims of domestic abuse/violence or spousal abandonment. Dependents may be eligible, too.

Alaskans can contact at 1-800-318-2596 to apply for this SEP. The SEP for victims of domestic abuse/violence or spousal abandonment lasts 60 days from the date of notification to Some items to note:

  • Those who are married to the abuser/abandoner can answer on the Marketplace application that they are unmarried for purposes of receiving financial assistance, without fear of penalty for misstating marital status.
  • Self-attestation is required on tax forms the following year if financial assistance was received.

So, if you (or someone you know) are currently a victim of domestic abuse, don’t let the thought of losing your health insurance stop you from leaving an abusive relationship. Protect yourself and your children—you’ll still have health insurance options available.

Susan Johnson,
Regional Director,
US Department of Health and Human Services, Region 10
Seattle, Washington

Received May 26, 2016 - Published June 09, 2016


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