A New York hospital that improperly billed dozens of sexual assault survivors for forensic rape examinations must provide them with full reimbursement as part of a settlement.
The Brooklyn Hospital Center conducted 86 forensic rape exams between January 2015 and February 2017, and in 85 instances either improperly billed the patient directly or billed the patient’s insurance plan without telling the patients they could either bill their insurer or the state’s Office of Victim Services, according to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
Thirty-seven patients were improperly billed more than $15,500 for the exams, and seven of these bills were sent to collection.
“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,” said Schneiderman in an announcement. “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.”
Schneiderman said he initiated the investigation after receiving a complaint that a survivor of sexual assault was billed seven separate times by Brooklyn Hospital for a forensic rape exam administered in its emergency room.
As a result of the investigation, Schneiderman sent letters to 10 hospitals across New York state seeking information about their policies. Under state law, sexual assault survivors are entitled to free emergency care through the state’s Office of Victim Services.
“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,” said Sonia Ossorio, president NOW-NY, in the statement. “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.”
The settlement agreement (PDF) will require the hospital to reimburse the patients all costs and fees, as well as 12% interest per annum from the date the hospital received the payment to the date of refund. The organization must adjust the accounts of all patients who have outstanding balances for the exams so that they reflect a zero balance.
In addition to the restitution, the settlement agreement calls for the hospital to pay $15,000 to the New York State Department of Law.
Gary Terrinoni, president and CEO of the hospital, said in a statement that there was an “inadvertent breakdown in our billing processes related to sexual assault victims, which we deeply regret.” The hospital has also developed interdisciplinary processes and protocols to prevent the billing problems in the future, he said.