New York hospitals illegally billed rape survivors for their rape kits, then sent debt-collectors after them

New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood has concluded that seven New York hospitals illegally billed rape survivors for their rape kits, at least 200 times, for sums ranging from $46 to $3,000, and then sent collections agents after survivors who could not pay.

New York law requires hospitals to bill the state's Office of Victim Services for rape kits; in addition to ensuring that rape kits are available regardless of ability to pay, the rule clears an impediment to reporting rape: women who bill their insurance for rape kits may fear stigma from their employers or families.

The seven hospitals did not comply with the law, nor did they inform the survivors of their rights — another legal obligation.

The hospitals involved are Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Columbia University, Montefiore Nyack Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Richmond University Medical Center, and St. Barnabas Hospital. The hospitals have not admitted culpability, but have agreed to refund the rape survivors and establish policies to ensure future compliance.

In case you were wondering, there is another way to address this: universal, free health care, AKA Medicare for All. Because hospitals you don't have to pay to use don't have billing departments, don't contract with debt collectors, and don't have to deal with private insurers.

Underwood is the first woman to serve as New York attorney general. She took over the state's top law enforcement job on an interim basis earlier this year after Eric Schneiderman resigned amid a flurry of accusations of abusing women, which he publicly contested. In this year's midterm elections, New Yorkers elected Letitia James to become the first black woman in state history to fill the role. James will take office in January.

It remains to be seen whether the New York settlement will encourage fresh investigations or changes in hospital and clinic rape-kit billing elsewhere, but the problem is not new, with past controversies reported from Arkansas to Alaska.

Hospitals Billed Sexual Assault Survivors for Rape Kits. Now They're Paying the Price. [Celeste Katz/Glamour]

(via Late Stage Capitalism)

(Image: NYP/Columbia University Medical Center)