Reimbursement confusion leads some hospitals to charge rape victims for care

Some hospitals charge rape victims for their forensic examinations and treatment, unsure of how to obtain reimbursements for such services, Kaiser Health News reported.

In most areas of the country, state and federal victim compensation funds pay for forensic examinations of rape victims, according to Kaiser Health News. But there are exceptions. A study conducted by the Urban Institute, George Mason University and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center concluded that four states cap payments to hospitals for treating rape victims and administering forensic exams.

"In some places, the system is seamless," Janine Zweig, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who conducted a study on hospital practices regarding sex crime victims, told Kaiser Health News. "In others, however, hospital administrators didn't know what they were dealing with and were billing incorrectly."

Zweig added that hospitals that bill incorrectly usually fix the charges once notified.

Some hospitals have gone the extra mile to be sensitive to sex crime victims, using specially trained nurses to interact with patients while collecting evidence.

However, federal law does not mandate covering the costs of other forms of hospital care for sexual assault and rape victims, such as regimens to prevent pregnancy and disease, although Zweig's study concluded that most states cover those expenses.

The costs of care after a rape or sexual assault can be substantial. A regimen of antiretroviral drugs alone to prevent the transmission of HIV can cost up to $1,000.

Costs that are not covered by either state or federal funds can be submitted to the victim's health insurers, although some states bar that practice and many victims are reluctant to submit such claims, according to Kaiser Health News. Some 15 states have laws regulating such insurance claims, and often require that payers waive co-payments and deductibles.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- read the study (.pdf)