the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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For Victims of Domestic Violence, Health Care is a Lifeline

As a result of health reform, women who are victims of domestic violence will have better access to health care and will no longer face pre-existing condition discrimination.

Sunday night’s historic vote on health care reform helps women across the board.

A greater percentage of women are more likely than men to be uninsured or underinsured and to struggle to make ends meet. In addition, those women who manage to get coverage are more likely to pay higher premiums than men. Women who suffer from preexisting conditions are often denied coverage altogether.

For all women, the advent of health care reform is a victory. For domestic violence victims, it is a lifeline.

Domestic violence causes 2 million injuries and more than 1,200 deaths every year . These women are not strangers - they are our daughters, our mothers, our sisters, our co-workers, and our neighbors. For victims of domestic violence, access to health care is critical. They need treatment for immediate injuries and ongoing care for related health problems. They need to be able to talk to their health care provider about the cause of their injuries without fear of losing their health insurance. Most importantly, they need our compassion and support.

Yet until last night, insurance companies in eight states and the District of Columbia could still discriminate against victims by declaring domestic violence a preexisting condition. Domestic violence victims in those states faced the real risk of being denied health care at the very time when they needed it the most. Because of last night’s vote, domestic violence victims in those states will no longer face discrimination.

All across the country, this bill will help domestic violence victims get the health care they need.  They will not face gender discrimination or lifetime caps on benefits. They will not face the struggle of paying too much for health care while trying to rebuild their lives after suffering domestic violence.

Victims of domestic violence should not have to worry about access to health care. Because of last night, we can make sure that they won’t.

Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women