Hospitals in 13 states charge rape victims for exams, care

Hospitals in more than a quarter of the states charge rape victims for all or part of their post-assault exams, Channel 3000 reported.

Thirteen states, including Wisconsin, have charged rape victims for their treatment, with some charging significant sums of money for doing so, according to the Wisconsin CBS affiliate.

Federal law prohibits organizations from charging rape victims for medical forensic exams, but what local or state agencies cover for costs varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Hospitals can charge rape victims for tests for sexually transmitted diseases and other related care. In Texas, it's mandated by state law, and reimbursement is only available if the victim reports the crime and "cooperates with law enforcement."

The numbers reported by Channel 3000 are higher than those in a report earlier this year from Kaiser Health News, which said that four states had placed some sort of caps on rape kit reimbursement.

Many states have restitution funds for victims, but they often have to apply directly for relief. In Ohio, the state pays for $532 toward the cost of a rape victim's care, but the victims are often billed for costs beyond that.

In Louisiana, a rape victim was billed around $2,000 by the LSU Hospital System after a private operator took it over. The state's health department has since crafted a plan to avoid such patient billing in the future.

Another rape victim in Chicago was charged thousands of dollars for the care she received and said the bills sent to her victimized her a second time. "When you keep getting bills once a month ... it's hard to move on," she told Channel 3000.  It turned out she was billed as the result of a clerical error, and it took an advocacy organization fa year to finally get the hospital to stop sending bills.

To learn more:
- read the Channel3000 report