In a stark shift from 2004 — when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force did not find ample evidence to recommend regular domestic violence screenings — the influential panel of scientists and medical professionals has now concluded that screening all women aged 14 to 46 for Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) produces a “moderate net benefit,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
While the panel did not find sufficient evidence to recommend even more widespread screenings, their recommendations bear the full weight of the law, since Obamacare requires insurers to cover any preventative services deemed appropriate by the task force — for free.
The new recommendations were lauded by women’s health advocates as a huge step in the right direction when it comes to treating the widespread physical and mental health problems wrought by IPV:
Intimate partner violence includes physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, stalking and reproductive coercion — intimidation that increases the risk of unplanned pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 31% of women and 26% of men have experienced IPV in their lifetimes. Immediate health consequences include injury, death, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, psychological distress and premature births.
Screening for domestic violence is recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for women of all ages. Other organizations, such as the American Medical Assn., encourage physicians to inquire about abuse in all patients as part of medical history, but do not recommend a specific screening format or list of questions.
Monday’s recommendation by the task force could possibly steer organizations toward adopting a more standardized protocol, according to some healthcare providers.
“This is very significant,” said Eric Ferrero, a Planned Parenthood spokesman who was not involved in the study. “It’s just good practice to know a patient’s health history, and we have been conducting screenings for a number of years. Hopefully, with this recommendation, it will be done more broadly.”
Studies have shown that domestic and dating violence in youth leave a lasting impact on adult well-being. And as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and his GOP allies have resisted reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, preventative provisions such as IPV screenings might prove themselves to be a crucial resource for American women.
This isn’t the first time that Obamacare’s preventative care provisions have helped protect vulnerable Americans. Last year, the same preventive task force recommended that every American between the ages of 15 and 65 be tested for HIV, making those screenings free for consumers as well.