rape kits | sexual assault survivors

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A Bronx hospital found to be illegally billing sexual assault survivors for forensic rape examinations, or rape kits, will now have to implement a new written policy ensuring survivors do not receive such bills and also pay restitution to any wrongly billed survivors as part of a settlement announced by Attorney General Letitia James office Tuesday.

Per New York State law, hospital services including a rape exam provided to a sexual assault survivor should be “without charge,” with the hospital instead billing the New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS) directly. Or, the survivor could voluntarily opt out and assign the costs to private insurance, but they must be informed about their options.

An investigation into BronxCare Health System found that between Jan. 10, 2016 and Dec. 26, 2017, BronxCare improperly billed 17 patients for its hospital services, billed the insurers of 10 of these patients, and sent 12 of the bills to collection, according to the AG’s office.

Separately, emergency room physicians sent bills to 13 of these patients and sent 12 of the bills to collection. These bills ranged from $35 to $1,957.

 

The investigation also found that BronxCare failed to advise these sexual assault patients of their billing options, as required by law.

“The trauma of sexual assault is more than enough for a survivor to bear. The secondary trauma of fighting an illegal bill for a forensic rape exam is unfathomable, and we will not allow it to continue,” James said in a statement. “Let me be clear: hospitals have a fundamental responsibility to comply with New York law. My office will continue to do everything in our power to protect survivors and their rights.” 

Multiple NY hospitals illegally billed sexual assault survivors for rape kits

This isn’t the first time New York hospitals were found to have illegally billed survivors for rape kits.

The BronxCare investigation follows the settlement with Brooklyn Hospital Medical Center in 2017, which was found to have illegally billed 85 rape victims for forensic exams which were supposed to be free.

That settlement kicked off a statewide investigation by the office of the Attorney General which so far found the same illegal activity at seven more facilities. Then-AG Barbara Underwood announced in Nov. 2018 that her office reached civil settlements with those seven hospitals: Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Columbia University, Montefiore Nyack Hospital, New York Presbyterian/Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Richmond University Medical Center, and St. Barnabas Hospital.

rape kits | ny hospitals illegally billing sexual assault survivors rape exams | attorney general letitia james
Letitia James was sworn in as New York Attorney General on Jan. 1, 2019. Getty Images

The BronxCare settlement, which requires the hospital to put in place a written policy ensuring survivors of their rights, provide full restitution to any improperly billed sexual assault survivors, and pay costs to New York State, is now the ninth such settlement.

The statewide investigation into illegally billed sexual assault survivors is ongoing.

The New York law that requires hospitals to provide rape exams free of charge has been in place since 2005 and helps ensure the survivor’s privacy.

“Allowing sexual assault survivors to choose to have OVS directly pay for services ensures the privacy and confidentiality of sexual assault victims,” per a release from James’s office. “This increased privacy increases the likelihood that a victim will submit to a forensic rape examination, which in turn increases the ability of law enforcement agencies to identify offenders.”

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