November 16, 1995 - Issue: Vol. 141, No. 182 — Daily Edition104th Congress (1995 - 1996) - 1st Session
THE VICTIMS OF ABUSE INSURANCE PROTECTION ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 141, No. 182
(Extensions of Remarks - November 16, 1995)
Text available as:
Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.
[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. ____________________