Louisiana ends the commonplace but illegal practice of billing rape victims for post-rape medical exams. Despite the fact that the federal government forbade such despicable acts ten years ago in the Violence Against Women Act, Louisiana never got the memo. State legislators signed off on proposed laws that will finally bring Louisiana into compliance.
State Rep Helena Moreno, D-NOLA, sponsored this recent legislation, along with an act that would reimbures hospitals from unclaimed gambling winnings. She said that, “Ten years ago they identified that there was this particular problem,” but nothing really got done about it.
Both of Moreno’s proposals are their way to Republican Governor Bobby Jindal having passed with unanimous votes in the House. According to sources, the governor is on board with the bills and plans to sign them into law.
While VAWA prohibits billing victims, many hospitals still do. Rebecca O’Connor, policy expert for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network confirms reports of such instances in Illinois, Nevada and Ohio. However, she said, Louisiana is an “extreme” example.
Some parishes refuse to pay for victims’ exams unless the victims report the rape to the authorities. Said authorities have often given victims lie detector tests after such reports.
Once Jindal signs Moreno’s bills into law, this should stop. Local authorities will be required to have comprehensive training in how to deal with sexual assaults. They would also be required to create clear guidelines on collecting, storing and submitting forensic evidence for DNA testing.
Doctors and hospitals would be able to ask for reimbursement from the state crime victims board. This would cover the costs of the collecting and testing the DNA evidence as well as testing for pregnancy and STDs. They could bill victims’ insurance providers with the victims’ permission, but couldn’t charge a co-pay, deductible or other share of the costs.