Screenings for domestic violence is one of the eight preventive-care tests now available to patients at no cost under the healthcare reform plan. Advocates said these tests are geared to improve women's health and save money.
"When doctors ask the right questions and get their patients to seek help when they need it, the amount of domestic violence goes down," said Laurie Thompsen, health and mental health coordinator for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "Women and teenagers stay healthier.
"So many people visit healthcare providers on a regular basis, it creates a perfect opportunity," said Thompsen. "It's also sending the message this not an acceptable way to be treated."
Thompsen says treating domestic violence early and aggressively can save money. Intimate-partner violence costs the nation billions each year in lost workdays and expenses related to mental health and substance abuse. The physical impact goes beyond the immediate injuries, said Thompsen.
"Research has shown that there are also connections with other health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, depression, a whole variety of medical concerns," said Thompsen.
Another change in the healthcare law is that women's domestic-violence insurance claims can't be denied as part of a pre-existing condition.
"Health insurance companies can no longer designate interpersonal and domestic violence as a pre-existing condition, which some companies have done in the past," Thompsen said.
In a push to improve preventive medical care, the healthcare reform law says insurance companies can no longer charge for many basic screenings, including the domestic violence screening.
The national domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE.