Guest Blog Post: What Domestic Violence Survivors Need to Know About Affordable Health Coverage

Female heath practitioner in hospital room
This is the first post of a series highlighting the topics, speakers, and participants featured  during FUTURES’ 2015 National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence. Today’s guest blogger is Lena O’Rourke, Founder and Principal of O’Rourke Health Policy Strategies,which is committed to developing and implementing good public policy on health care issues, with an eye toward making our nation’s health care system work.

Open enrollment for health insurance is right around the corner! I’m pleased to announce that starting November 15th, 2014, survivors of domestic violence have the opportunity to enroll in affordable, high-quality health insurance. But it’s important to act now—this open enrollment period only lasts from November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015 for health insurance coverage that begins in 2015. Don’t delay!

This coverage is made possible through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a piece of legislation that makes health insurance coverage affordable and provides a guaranteed and expanded set of benefits that women and their families need. Women who have a pre-existing condition cannot be turned away from coverage—this includes prohibiting insurance discrimination against victims of domestic violence. For women who have stayed in unhealthy relationships for fear of losing their health insurance, the ACA offers options to access affordable health care not tied to their partner. In other words, affordable and comprehensive coverage is within reach for all women.

Here’s what survivors of domestic abuse should know:

  • Significant financial help is available to make coverage affordable. It’s available on a sliding scale based on family income. Some married survivors who don’t live with their spouse are eligible for financial help on their own salary.
  • Plans are required to cover a comprehensive set of benefits including medical and behavioral health services.
  • Health plans must cover screening and counseling for lifetime exposure to domestic and interpersonal violence.
  • Pregnant women now have guaranteed maternity benefits as part of their insurance package, and their newborns will get the screenings and care they need.

How to get started: 

If you know someone who needs health insurance, encourage them to start their application process by going to The site will ask what state you live in, and either start the application or links you to your state’s Insurance Marketplace.

Every state has a network of free in-person “assisters” who are trained to help people through the application process. There are special rules to help some victims of domestic violence during the application process; these assisters will understand how to help navigate the enrollment process.

For a full list of assisters near you, go to Look at the list, talk to local health centers or hospitals, or talk to other providers. Build a relationship with an assister to whom you can refer clients who may need help with the application process.

Remember, open enrollment ends in February. There are only limited opportunities to get coverage outside this window, so encourage anyone who needs coverage (or who needs to renew their plan) to visit!

Want to know more?