Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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FL Doctors Asked to Screen for Domestic Violence

NAPLES, FL - Florida doctors can now screen patients for indications of domestic violence, as one of the eight preventive care tests available at no additional cost under a section of health care reform that just became effective this week. It is being billed by some as a step toward improving women's health, and saving money for the healthcare system in the long run.

Battered womenAt the Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Naples, Mary Anne Greene says the doctor-patient relationship is the ideal environment to help people get out of abusive relationships.

"If you're in a doctor's office, and the abuser is not present and your healthcare provider actually starts screening for domestic violence, this means we can get more people into programs and services."

In a push to improve preventive medical care, the Affordable Care Act says insurance companies can no longer charge for many basic screenings, including the domestic violence screening. Another change is that women's domestic violence insurance claims can't be denied as part of a preexisting condition.

According to national statistics, one in four women and one in seven men are victims of domestic violence, although Green points out that those are only the reported instances and actual numbers may be far higher. She notes that statistics also indicate women report domestic violence seven times before they actually leave their abuser.

"They are a shadow person of what they used to be. To come forward and say, 'Yes, this is really happening,' and to have have the courage to leave, because every other threat he's made has come true."

Critics of this provision of the healthcare law predict it will be too expensive, but Green and others argue that treating domestic violence early and aggressively can save money.

In 2010, more than 113,000 domestic violence crimes were reported to Florida law enforcement agencies.

The national domestic violence hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE.

Graphic and links added by the Observer


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