An investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman revealed that a Brooklyn hospital illegally charged 85 people for rape kits.
Schneiderman announced on Nov. 28 that he had reached an agreement with the Brooklyn Hospital Center after finding that the hospital had illegally billed the patient or the patient's insurance for all but one of the rape kits conducted between January 2015 and February 2017.
The issue was brought to Schneiderman's attention in January when he received a complaint from a sexual assault survivor who had been billed twice by the Brooklyn hospital for a forensic rape exam given in the emergency room, The Washington Post reports. Hospitals are directed to bill rape kits to a state or other entity in accordance with the 2005 Violence Against Women Act.
"The hospital assured them it would not bill her again," Schneiderman said. "But it did, again and again and again."
Schneiderman's office stated that the woman was charged a total of seven times.
"It’s hard to imagine the heartache and anxiety a survivor must feel having to fight a collection agency over an unlawful bill for a rape kit," the attorney general announced in a statement. "It's unacceptable, and we will not allow it to continue. I want to be clear: survivors of sexual assault are entitled to cost-free emergency care under New York law -- and we will do everything possible to ensure they get the respect and care they deserve."
Schneiderman also sent letters to 10 New York hospitals to inquire about their policies for billing sexual assault victims.
While New York hospitals are directed to bill forensic rape examinations to the state's Office of Victim Services, patients are given the option of billing their private insurance company. Many victims end up going for that option to maintain confidentiality.
Schneiderman says that the average cost of emergency care for rape victims comes to $900, according to The Washington Post.
The Brooklyn Hospital Center has agreed to provide a form to all patients receiving a rape examination kit explaining their options for billing the state or their insurance. The hospital did not admit to any legal wrongdoing, but released a Nov. 28 statement in which it ascribed the problem to "an inadvertent breakdown in our billing processes related to sexual assault victims, which we deeply regret."
Sexual assault victims' advocates were satisfied that the hospital's billing procedures were addressed.
"Think about it for a moment, how traumatic is sexual assault?" said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women's New York chapter, according to NBC. "And it's re-traumatizing to have bills arrive in the mail asking you to pay for basically what is collection of evidence of a crime scene."
Sources: New York State Office of the Attorney General, The Washington Post, NBC / Featured Image: Youngking11/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Norbert Nagel/Wikimedia Commons, citizenactiony/Flickr