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New Florida health care law changes address domestic violence

New health care reform provisions that became operative just this week in Florida now provide for no-cost screening by doctors of patients for symptoms of domestic violence.

Previously, insurance companies in the state could routinely charge for domestic abuse screenings, as well as deny coverage outright for them on the grounds that any evidence of violence was a preexisting condition.

That is no longer the case, with the Affordable Care Act just enacted mandating that many basic screenings, including for domestic violence, now be provided free of charge.

Advocates of the change point to several positive results that are likely to emerge. Central among those are that the health -- both physical and emotional -- of violence victims will be improved, with their children also benefitting. Additionally, identifying abuse earlier can lead to savings in time and money over the long term in many areas, including law enforcement, social services, the courts and other areas.

One advocate at an abused women's shelter says that the doctor's office is the optimal environment for uncovering, discussing and acting upon issues relating to familial violence. The atmosphere of professionalism and privacy, with the confidential doctor-patient relationship at the core, especially encourages candor and getting at the truth.

National statistics indicate that one in four women is a victim of domestic abuse, with one in seven men also being abused in a relationship.

More than 113,000 crimes relating to domestic violence were reported to Florida law enforcement departments in 2010.

Source: Public News Service, "FL doctors asked to screen for domestic violence," Stephanie Carroll Carson, Aug. 3, 2012

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