Health

Hospitals Charge Rape Victims Thousands of Dollars

| by Michael Allen

The American health care system operates on a for-profit system that includes charging rape victims.

A woman named "Christine," who works as a sexual assault forensic nurse, went out to dinner with some friends in late 2013, but ended up drugged and sexually assaulted.

"I don't remember anything after leaving the dinner portion," Christine told CBS News. "I woke up naked and I don't remember anything else after that."

Christine went to the Highland Park Hospital in Chicago, which billed her for the rape kit, also known as the forensic exam.

"The next day I got my first bill for my copay," added Christine. "The bills just kept coming after that."

However, the State of Illinois has a system set up to pay for medical bills not covered by health insurance for sexual assault victims.

According to Slate.com, a federal law, the Violence Against Women Act, bans sexual assault victims from being charged for “an examination of physical trauma, a determination of penetration or force, a patient interview and collection of evidence.”

However, the Violence Against Women Act doesn't cover emergency contraception, drugs to prevent possible HIV, pregnancy and STD tests, and medical care for injuries.

Hospitals can bill rape victims for any other related care not specifically covered under the Violence Against Women Act.

"It is very common for a survivor to get a bill," Sarah Layden, Director of Advocacy Services at Rape Victim Advocates in Chicago, told CBS News. "We have a full time staff advocate who spends the bulk of their time helping clients resolve bills."

The Times Picayune reported in September that rape victims in Louisiana were being charged thousands of dollars by hospitals and medical facilities. Louisiana does have a Crime Victims Reparations Fund where sexual assault victims can apply for financial help for medical bills, but the guidelines are very strict.

Back in Chicago, Highland Park Hospital reportedly threatened to turn Christine over to collections even though she didn't have to pay under state law. In another sick twist, she had worked at Highland Park Hospital and set up its rape protocol medical treatment (but not the billing).

Highland Park Hospital officials said in a statement: "We regret that this happened. We have implemented a new series of protocols and procedures in our billing system to ensure this does not happen again."

Sources: Times Picayune, CBS News, Slate.com / Image Credit: Svilen.milev