October 22, 2014 — Louisiana's health department on Monday said sexual assault survivors should not have to pay for their emergency room treatment and announced a legislative proposal to create a state victims' assistance board to pay for care, the AP/UT-San Diego reports.
Under the current system, providers cannot directly send bills to the state Crime Victim's Reparation Board, and women have been denied reimbursement if they have not filed a police report. As a result, providers bill sexual assault survivors or their insurers for care.
The issue came to light in Louisiana after the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that rape survivors were being billed thousands of dollars for forensic examinations.
The proposed legislation would prevent health care providers from billing survivors for services and would allow hospitals to seek reimbursement directly from the reparation board.
In addition, the state Department of Health and Hospitals wants to eliminate rules that require a victim to file a police report to have injuries, sexually transmitted infection tests, gynecology care and other exams covered by the board.
The changes will be proposed at the legislative session that begins in April. If enacted, Louisiana would join 32 other states that pay for the forensic examinations through a compensation program and 38 states that prohibit providers from charging sexual assault survivors for the exams, according to AEquitas: The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women.
On Monday, sexual assault survivors and their families described their experiences seeking treatment to the state Senate Select Committee on Women.
"It's as if the victims have no rights through our hospitals. If our homes are broken into, we're not charged for evidence collection," said a woman who testified anonymously that her family had to pay $4,200 in medical bills after her daughter was sexually assaulted. "We felt like we were let down by our state government, our local government and just all humanity," she added (Deslatte, AP/UT-San Diego, 10/20).