In nine eight states as well as the District of Columbia, it is legal for insurance companies to reject individual health coverage for people because they are survivors of domestic violence.

Among those states are four three in the South -- Arkansas,* Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. The others are Idaho, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia.

The problem was examined in a report released last fall by the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C. Titled "Nowhere to Turn: How the Individual Health Insurance Market Fails Women," the report examined the so-called "gender gap" -- the difference in premiums charged to male and female applicants of the same age and health status -- as well as other insurer policies related to gender.

It found that women often face higher premiums than men, that it is difficult and costly for women to find insurance that covers maternity care, and that insurers can reject applicants for a variety of reasons particularly relevant to women -- including domestic violence.

The Service Employees International Union, which is pressing for reform of the health insurance system, wrote about the domestic violence insurance issue at its blog on Friday:
Words cannot describe the sheer inhumanity of this claim. It serves as yet further proof that our insurance system is broken, destroyed by the profit-mongering of the very companies [whose] sole purpose should be to provide Americans with access to care when they need it most. In 1994, an informal survey conducted by the Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee revealed that 8 of the 16 largest insurers in the country used domestic violence as a factor when deciding whether to extend coverage and how much to charge if coverage was extended.

*CORRECTION: In April, Arkansas passed a law prohibiting insurance discrimination against domestic violence survivors.