THE VICTIMS OF ABUSE INSURANCE PROTECTION ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 141, No. 182
(Extensions of Remarks - November 16, 1995)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E2199-E2200]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




             THE VICTIMS OF ABUSE INSURANCE PROTECTION ACT

                                 ______


                          HON. BERNARD SANDERS

                               of vermont

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, November 16, 1995

  Mr. SANDERS. Mr. Speaker, today I am unveiling comprehensive 
legislation that I have authored entitled ``The Victims of Abuse 
Insurance Protection Act.'' This sweeping legislation will prohibit all 
forms of insurance discrimination against victims of domestic violence 
and has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the American 
Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization of Women legal defense 
and education fund, The Women's Law Project, and the American Nurses 
Association.
  We know that insurers use domestic violence as a basis for 
determining who to cover and how much to charge with respect to health, 
life, disability, homeowners and auto insurance. Insurance companies 
give a variety of reasons for denying victims coverage or for charging 
higher premiums.
  Some insurers say domestic violence is a lifestyle choice, like 
skydiving or window washing on skyscrapers. We know that domestic 
violence is not a choice, but a crime. We know that victims do not 
chose to live with their batterers but are often forced to do so for 
economic and safety reasons. We know that when a victim tries to leave 
her abuser, violence escalates and her life is at great risk.
  What does it mean for an insurance company to deny coverage--to drop 
coverage--to charge higher rates for victims of domestic violence?
  It means that someone who is already scared for her life, someone who 
wants to get away from her batterer--wants to get help--has one more 
major reason to fear telling someone, to not leave, to avoid getting 
help.
  If an insurance company treats domestic violence as a preexisting 
condition, who will tell their doctor that they have been battered? How 
will a doctor know to refer a victim to appropriate battered women's 
groups and authorities in the community? Will a doctor have to continue 
to fear ``publicizing'' confidential patient information through 
medical records--information that will likely result in battered women 
and children losing their insurance?
  What is the message we are sending to women? If you try to get help, 
not only do you have to fear the repercussions from your abuser, but 
you must also fear losing access to health care for yourself and your 
family or insurance that provides for your families in case of death or 
disability. Current practices tell women they are better off not 
getting help and staying in an abusive situation. It also tells victims 
that after they have invested thousands of dollars in insurance 
premiums--they are better off not reporting stolen property, damage to 
their home or even, as has happened in one case, not get help for a 
child that has been abused at a day care center.
  What does this say about the long-honored, sacred relationship 
between a doctor and a patient? Basically the insurance companies are 
making our doctors stool pigeons of sorts, rather than enabling them to 
honesty identify abuse and help provide trained help and referral 
services to victims.
  And this insurance scheme has created a whole new phenomenon for 
landlords, relatives, employers, and owners of battered women's 
shelters. In fact, more and more women's shelters are finding it 
difficult to get property insurance because they house victims.
  Insurance companies are effectively tearing down all the work that 
has been done over the last 20 years in creating safe havens and 
assistance for victims of domestic violence.
  It is important to understand just how widespread this problem really 
is. An informal survey by the House Judiciary Committee in 1994 
revealed that 8 of the 16 largest insurers in the country were using 
domestic violence as a factor when deciding whether to issue and how 
much to charge for insurance.
  And while we know that at least 4 million American women were 
physically abused by boyfriends or husbands in 1993, it is hard to get 
a true understanding of how many victims are impacted by these 
practices because insurers are not required to tell applicants the 
reasons for rejecting them, increasing their premiums, or dropping them 
altogether.
  There are laws prohibiting the practice of refusing to insure or 
raising the cost of homeowners' insurance in high crime areas, yet 
insurance companies are not prevented from selecting out high crime 
homes and discriminating against victims who live there.
  That is why I am introducing this legislation today with my 
colleagues Peter DeFazio, Constance Morella, and Ron Wyden. Today we 
are attempting to put an end to insurance discrimination against 
victims of domestic violence. We are trying to halt discrimination 
against hose who hire or house victims of abuse. We are making every 
effort to protect the most private and sacred information that is 
shared between a doctor and a patient.
  The legislation that we are introducing today will protect victims 
across this country--many of whom cross State lines to hide from their 
batterer--from being singled out as uninsurable. If we reinforce our 
efforts to root out domestic violence and offer protection and 
counseling for families. It will stop the practice of insurance and 
medical data base companies from probing through medical records to 
find reasons to charge more or deny insurance altogether. And finally, 
the Victims of Abuse Insurance Protection Act gives victims appropriate 
civil remedies to fight back against this discrimination.

[[Page E 2200]]


     PRIVILEGES OF THE HOUSE RESOLUTION RELATING TO FORGED DOCUMENT

                                 ______


                          HON. CARDISS COLLINS

                              of illinois

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, November 16, 1995

  Mrs. COLLINS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, November 1, 
1995, three of my Republican colleagues went to the floor during time 
set aside for special orders. All three speakers spoke about an event 
that occurred in the subcommittee, in which a document under the 
purported letterhead of the Alliance for Justice actually had been 
prepared by the subcommittee chairman's staff.
  The titles of those three speeches were, and I quote: ``Hearing 
`Prop' Incident Does Not Merit Ethics Investigation,'' ``Alliance for 
Justice,'' and ``Innocent Mistake Transformed Into an Ethics 
Complaint.''
  Mr. Speaker, all three speeches dealt with the ethics investigation 
that is currently pending before the Committee on Standards of Official 
Conduct.
  Under a ruling of the Speaker pro tempore on May 25, 1995, those 
speeches were inappropriate and should not have been permitted. In that 
ruling, a Member who had made a reference to a matter relating to 
Speaker Gingrich pending before the Committee on Standards of Official 
Conduct was warned:

       Members should not engage in debate concerning matters that 
     may be pending in the Committee on Standards of Official 
     Conduct.

  I would also note that the speeches also attempted to ascribe 
motivations to the Member who transmitted the ethics complaint. For 
example, one speaker stated that the motivation was ``partisan 
politics'' and another blamed it on a ``political culture.''
  I would note that the precedents of the House rule XIV clearly 
establish, and I quote from section 749 of the annotations to the House 
rules, that:

       (6) Members should refrain from references in debate to the 
     motivations of Members who file complaints before the 
     Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

  Although the Speaker has recently been vigorous in enforcing these 
restrictions during special orders, even on his own initiative, when 
Members are less likely to be present on the floor to make a point of 
order, he did not do so on Wednesday night.
  Those speakers alluded to remarks made by my Democratic colleagues 
and by me, which were prior to the receipt by the Committee on 
Standards of Conduct of a complaint, but I will not directly respond to 
them, because I respect the Rules of the House which prohibit 
statements with respect to conduct that is subject to a pending ethics 
investigation.
  On October 25, the House voted to table a resolution offered by the 
gentlewoman from New York, Mrs. Slaughter, to request that the Speaker 
investigate this matter and take appropriate action. Instead, the 
matter is now pending before the Ethics Committee. The appropriate 
forum for discussing matters such as whether Chairman McIntosh was 
responsible for ethical violations relating to forged documents can no 
longer be debated on the House floor. We must await the decision by the 
Ethics Committee. Therefore, I will not address remarks by the 
Republican Members concerning whether the document in question was a 
``criminal forgery,'' or whether the apology of Chairman McIntosh was 
timely.
  I will address one final matter, which relates to actions taken by 
the House and is not the subject of the ethics investigation nor 
relates to the personalities or conduct of the individuals involved. In 
his remarks on Wednesday, one of my Republican colleagues made the 
following statement:

       I would like to expose some of the inaccuracies expressed 
     last week in speeches given by my Democrat colleagues with 
     regards to this incident. I will give them the benefit of the 
     doubt, and assume that they too were errors . . . it was 
     stated that the motion to table Mrs. Slaughter's resolution 
     was voted down twice--when in fact it was only voted down 
     once by the House.

  Actually, it is my Republican colleague who is speaking inaccurately. 
The motion to table Mrs. Slaughter's resolution was not voted down 
once, nor was it voted down twice. The motion to table Mrs. Slaughter's 
resolution was adopted. I had made reference to the fact that the House 
voted twice to table the resolution. I was referring to both the voice 
vote, and the recorded vote. At no time did I state, as my Republican 
colleague erroneously stated, that the House voted down the motion to 
table.
  I would like to return the kind words of my Republican colleague, and 
I too will give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that his 
statement was just an error.

                          ____________________