The Advocate‘s Marsha Shuler reports that, under a new plan, rape victims in Louisiana will no longer be charged for examinations and tests after reporting a sexual assault.
Under the current law, many rape victims are charged for expenses such as emergency room care, HIV and pregnancy testing, and medication used to treat their injuries.
Victim’s rights advocates have long claimed that the threat of exorbitant hospital fees dissuades many rape victims from seeking medical treatment — and if they do not seek treatment, they are unlikely to report the sexual assault.
Even though the “rape kits” used to collect evidence are not charged to the victim, the prohibitive cost of the treatment they would receive before the forensic examination deters them from reporting the assault at all.
State Representative Helena Moreno (D-New Orleans) told The Advocate that “[t]here is so much work to do on so many different levels, but it appears the commitment is there to end the mistreatment of rape victims when it comes to unacceptable billing practices.”
“We need to ask the question why insurance companies are denying some of these claims as well,” she added.
According to The Advocate, the mother of a rape victim reported that in addition to the trauma of being raped, her daughter was billed $4,257.70 by a hospital that treated her.
“It’s as if the victims have no rights through our hospitals,” the woman, who wished not to be identified, said. Another rape victim said that she received a $2,000 bill from the LSU Interim Hospital in New Orleans, and her “insurance company paid none of it at all.”
Under the new state regulations, bills for reimbursement will be sent to the Crime Victims Reparation Board.