It’s So Very Wrong That Hospitals Are Charging Sexual Assault Victims
Survivors Should NEVER Pay A Financial Penalty for Rape Treatment
Karen* was 26 when her partner drove her to an ER in Boston the morning after she was sexually assaulted. She opted for a pregnancy test, pre-exposure prophylaxis anti-HIV treatment, and an IV. She assumed her insurance from her job as a certified rape crisis counselor would cover the costs.
But four months later, she received a bill from the hospital. It contained a breakdown of what her insurance covered and what she owed — and it exceeded $1,200.
Karen is not the first sexual assault survivor to get surprised with exorbitant fees. Despite the law’s intentions of offsetting medical expenses that should not have to be paid by the sexual assault survivor (and it’s not taxpayer dollars covering the costs, but rather funds from crime victim compensation programs), some hospitals are extraneously billing the patients for tests and treatments, further contributing to their distress.
In a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers analyzed the insurance policies of 1,355 female rape survivors between the ages of 16 and 61. They found that nearly all of them paid healthcare costs — an average of about $950 — for crimes committed against them. The study found that while insurance typically covers 86% of the $6,737 average cost of rape, including for items like a rape kit — an involved exam that collects forensic evidence for a tailored treatment program or to support court proceedings should you wish to prosecute — survivors are generally left to cover the remaining amount out of pocket. Between antibiotics, sleep aids, anti-anxiety medications, emergency contraceptives, and other related treatments, the study showed some survivors accrued up to $8,900 in charges in the first month alone.
The cost is even more disheartening given that protection clauses in the law like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) were established to prevent hospitals and healthcare providers from billing survivors after their assault. Still, many providers in the country have figured out how to tack on extra fees, Michelle Katz, a licensed practical nurse, health insurance advocate, and author of Healthcare for Less, 101 Health Insurance Tips, and Healthcare Made Easy, tells Teen Vogue. She says that depending on the facility, physicians often charge a professional component associated with their expert reading of the diagnostic or lab work, a site fee for the cost of the room and equipment, and a technical fee for the kit itself. This begs the question: Are hospitals unnecessarily billing survivors?Marissa Miller
I’m Outraged That Hospitals Are Charging Sexual Assault Survivors
The medical industrial complex in the United States is more about profit than it is about patients.
For some, that may appear to be an inflammatory statement. While there may be individual physicians and hospitals who buck this trend, it’s become nearly universally true.
In my work as an advocate for low-income individuals, I’m constantly fighting the heinous practice of balance billing. There are Federal laws prohibiting this exploit. Yet, I help Medicaid recipients who are getting hospital bills far too often for it to be the result of simple billing mistakes. Hospital billing departments are either completely ignorant and incompetent. Or, they are deliberately attempting to take financial advantage of the poor.
Now, thanks to Teen Vogue, I learn that sexual assault survivors are being victimized in a similar fashion.
Needless to say, I’m outraged!
I can not be more clear about this. Anytime a sexual assault survivor receives a bill for their rape treatment, they are being victimized a second time. Victimized by the hospitals and physicians who send out the bill. Clearly, the offending individuals and institutions are adding financial insult to injury…
Sexual Assault Resources
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can seek help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). For more resources on sexual assault, visit RAINN, End Rape on Campus, Know Your IX, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.