New York Attorney announced Tuesday that a settlement had been reached with Brooklyn Hospital Medical Center, which had been accused of billing illegally victims of sexual assault for forensic rape examinations. The investigation was initially launched by Schneiderman after a sexual assault survivor complained about being billed seven times for a rape exam administered in the hospital’s emergency room. The investigation ultimately discovered that between January 2015 and February 2017 the medical center had illegally billed the patient or the individual’s insurance provider in 85 of the 86 exams that were carried out. The hospital had also sent some of these bills to its collection agency.
According to state law, whenever a medical facility provides services to sexual assault victims, it must provide the services to the patient free of charge rather than billing the patient. They must, instead, bill the Office of Victim Services directly or the patient can choose to assign the costs to their insurance company. This is meant to protect the privacy of survivors and increases the chances of a rape survivor willingly submitting to a test so the perpetrator can be apprehended.
“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. It’s unacceptable, and we will not allow it to continue,” Schneiderman said. “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.”
“It is unconscionable that a survivor who undergoes an intensive rape kit collection process would then receive a bill in the mail to pay for her own rape kit. What other crime victims must cover the costs of their own crime investigations? This goes to the very heart of blaming the victim, and we commend A.G. Schneiderman for stopping this illegal practice in its tracks,” said Sonia Ossorio, President of NOW-NY.
Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families, added, “At Sanctuary for Families, we assist survivors of many forms of gender violence, including domestic violence, sex trafficking, and sexual assault. We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for uncovering the untenable practice of charging sexual assault survivors for forensic rape examinations. Institutions like hospitals should be places of refuge and healing for gender violence survivors. Victims should not be re-traumatized by receiving a bill for the collection of evidence used to find and prosecute the person who assaulted them.”
“No survivor of sexual assault who consents to a Forensic Rape Exam should ever receive a bill for medical services that NYS hospitals are obligated to provide. Receiving an underserved notice from a collections agency is a traumatizing reminder of a devastating event, and completely unnecessary. As NYS’s oldest Rape Crisis program, CVTC praises the actions of the Attorney General’s Office in ensuring that every survivor of sexual assault has access to the free medical exam promised by New York State,” said Christopher E. Bromson, Executive Director, Crime Victims Treatment Center.
Brooklyn Hospital Medical Center has promised to maintain a Sexual Assault Victim Policy that prevents such billing in the future and, as part of the settlement terms, must also provide full restitution to all illegally billed assault survivors.